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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Prayer: Thomas Merton

Each day is a new dawn of that Lumen Christi, the light of Christ that knows no setting.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Prayer: Vincent de Paul

The spirit of the world is restless and wishes to do everything. Let us leave it to itself. Let us have no desire to choose our own paths, but walk in those which God may be pleased to prescribe for us.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Prayer: Roger of Taize

A simple prayer, like a soft sighing, like a child’s prayer, keeps us alert. Has not God revealed to those who are little, to Christ’s poor, what the powerful of this world have so much trouble understanding?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2013
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

The readings set up the mood for the entire Advent season, even though they seem awkwardly placed. For the last three weeks, we have heard stories of the end times and the last judgment, and as we begin a brand new church year, we are still hearing stories about warnings that the end times are coming. We might expect a new, fresh start as we long to hear about God’s sending forth of his Son in the grand plan to save the world. The deeper meaning is to remind us that we are to be patient in waiting for the unexpected mysteries that come our way.

            The Gospel warns us to stay awake because the hour of the coming of Jesus is not known. We cannot presume that we along with our loved ones will be taken up in the final reaping of the harvest because we make unique choices as individuals, and family, tribes, or other communal relationships do not protect us or give us a free pass. We have to take responsibility for each of our choices.  Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, also urges our vigilance as he wakes us from our slumber of complacency. He calls us to be ready by making sure our conduct is upright and proper – a sign that our choices to live well and with integrity are signs of our Christian discipleship. Isaiah reminds us that we are called to a higher standard of conduct than those around us. We ought not be concerned with their behavior, but we do have choices over the ways we respond to challenging daily situations.

            The readings feel a bit off because we are no longer urgently waiting for the Lord’s return. Because he is alive and present to us, we know his Spirit will guide us and help us prepare for his eventual return. Instead, we read these texts in the light of our own particular judgment, that is, we make it about the preparation for the end of our individual lives because we have no idea when our time has come to pass from this world to the next. This is sobering enough and when confronted with our mortality, we recognize we no longer have the amount of time we once thought we did. We therefore choose to live as fully as we can and place unimportant distractions in proper perspective.     

            How then are we to approach this season with the alertness Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus asks of us? Let us start by embracing the cultural celebrations around us. Sure, we all recognize the retailers begin the commercial sales pitches for Christmas way too early and we Catholics want to properly celebrate Advent before we even think about Christmas, but sometimes it is easier to go along with the cultural movements than to resist and get uptight about the actions of others. Last Tuesday, Pope Francis published his first work called “The Joy of the Gospel” to outline his Christian vision for the church. Central to it is joy. If we are always resisting and finding ways to be critical, then we are not giving evidence that we are a joyful people. Learn to delight in the world around you. The Pope calls for pastoral creativity and openness and this can be done without getting caught up in the abuses of commercial retailers’ agendas.

            Enjoy the commercial side of Christmas that truly respects and celebrates Advent. Many popular Christmas songs are Advent songs that anticipate the good times that await us at Christmas. Real Christmas songs are sung in churches at the proper time. For instance if someone is dreaming of a “White Christmas,” let them dream of the magical beauty they find in being with family and loved ones during the lead-up to Christmas. If someone longing sings, “I’ll be home for Christmas,” then it is because they are missing their loved ones a great deal and feel an emotional, spiritual connection with them though they are miles apart. Let these good desires and longing flow.

            Put up your Christmas tree early so that you can sit and enjoy the sparkle and twinkle of lights. Bring magic and memories into the present moment. Tell stories of mystery and surprise from your childhood and let others know of the heartache you feel when a loved one is no longer with you. Build new traditions that keep your loved ones in your life. Watch with friends a favorite movie or cartoon and let the laughter rise from the floor to rafter. Attend a concert or find where the local choir is caroling and support their efforts to bring you joy. Go to a favorite coffee house with a friend and just enjoy the people who show up to experience the richness of life where aromatic smells and tasty food are there to bring delight. Advent is about spending time with your loved ones. Choose something you would really like to do this Advent and set aside the time to make a new memory that you can cherish for years to come. You never know whether it will be your last Christmas season so do your best to let yourself go enough to let the smells and bells and the sights and sounds fill you with good cheer. Listen to the people sing songs of good cheer that Christmas is near.

            Joy. Delight. Mystery. Let these be the words you speak when your rise each morning. Keep your senses alert and heightened and let your imagination fill you so completely that they bubble over into your daily life. The gift we have is just to be in the now with those who were brought to us. Engage them lovingly and share the good news that Christ has brought to us. Bring your best self into each moment and wish glad tidings to all. If we seek God in all things, even the commercial Christmas season, we will find the ever-present Christmas spirit that longs to bring us to God’s heart and fill us with renewed hope and fresh dreams. I’m dreaming of a bright Christmas.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Isaiah inspires his people by prophesying that those who remain in Jerusalem will be called holy by the Lord and will be covered by his glory. On the day when the Lord will reveal himself, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his roots a bud will blossom and the spirit of wisdom and understanding will rest on the house of David. The peaceable kingdom will be brought into fullness. On the holy mountain of the Lord, all people will be provided a feast of rich foods and choice wines and the veil that shields all people will be destroyed. Death will be wiped away and the Lord will save his people. The people of Judah will sing a song about Jerusalem’s favor because they trusted in the Lord. The bare lands will become fertile and an orchard will become a forest. The deaf will hear and the gloom of the land will be lifted as the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Jerusalem will weep no more and the Lord will give them all they need each day for sustenance. The Day of the Lord will turn around the fortunes of many who are despondent and thirsty.

Gospel: Jesus praises the centurion for his obedience to the word of God. Because of this, his sick paralyzed servant is healed. Jesus praises his father for hidden the mysteries of the universe from the learned and wise but revealing them to the sick and childlike. As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, great crowds of people came to see him bring with them many who were blind, deformed, lame, mute, and many others. His heart was moved to pity for them and he takes the meager portions of food held by the disciples and feeds them with ample fish and bread. Jesus reminds the people that not everyone who thinks they will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven will make it there. It is only for those who built their foundations on the solid rock of faith. As Jesus passed by, two blind men cried out to him to have mercy upon them because they wanted their sight back. Their eyes were opened and words spread throughout the land of the healing power of Jesus. After preaching and healing many, Jesus summoned Twelve of his disciples and gave them power to proclaim to the lost sheep of Israel that the time of salvation is at hand.

Saints of the Week

December 1: Edmund Campion, S.J., (1540- 1581), Robert Southwell, S.J., (1561-1595) martyrs, were English natives and Jesuit priests at a time when Catholics were persecuted in the country. Both men acknowledge Queen Elizabeth as monarch, but they refused to renounce their Catholic faith. They are among the 40 martyrs of England and Wales. Campion was killed in 1581 and Southwell’s death was 1595.

December 3: Francis Xavier, S.J., priest (1506-1552) was a founding members of the Jesuit Order who was sent to the East Indies and Japan as a missionary. His preaching converted hundreds of thousands of converts to the faith. He died before reaching China. Xavier was a classmate of Peter Faber and Ignatius of Loyola at the University of Paris.

December 6: Nicholas, bishop (d. 350), lived in southwest Turkey and was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 324. Since there are many stories of his good deeds, generous charity, and remarkable pastoral care, his character became the foundation for the image of Santa Claus.

December 7: Ambrose, bishop and doctor (339-397) was a Roman governor who fairly mediated an episcopal election in Milan. He was then acclaimed their bishop even though he was not baptized. He baptized Augustine in 386 and is doctor of the church because of his preaching, teaching and influential ways of being a pastor.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec. 1, 1581: At Tyburn in London, Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant were martyred.
·      Dec. 2, 1552: On the island of Sancian off the coast of China, Francis Xavier died.
·      Dec. 3, 1563: At the Council of Trent, the Institute of the Society was approved.
·      Dec. 4, 1870: The Roman College, appropriated by the Piedmontese government, was reopened as a Lyceum. The monogram of the Society over the main entrance was effaced.
·      Dec. 5, 1584: By his bull Omnipotentis Dei, Pope Gregory XIII gave the title of Primaria to Our Lady's Sodality established in the Roman College in 1564, and empowered it to aggregate other similar sodalities.
·      Dec. 6, 1618: In Naples, the Jesuits were blamed for proposing to the Viceroy that a solemn feast should be held in honor of the Immaculate Conception and that priests should make a public pledge defend the doctrine. This was regarded as a novelty not to be encouraged.

·      Dec. 7, 1649: Charles Garnier was martyred in Etarita, Canada, as a missionary to the Petun Indians, among whom he died during an Iroquois attack.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prayer: Gregory the Great

Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prayer: Hildegard of Bingen

God is the living light in every respect. From God all lights shine. Therefore, we remain a light that gives off light through God.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

Let us come to God not with our feet but with our affections; let us come not by moving from one place to another but by loving. When someone is transported by the heart, he or she changes affection by the movement of the heart.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Prayer: Basil

They who sow courtesy reap friendship, and they who plant kindness gather love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christ the King

Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Christ the King
November 24, 2013
2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43

The Book of Samuel shows us the human – and royal – origin of Jesus as a descendent of David, who was anointed king because he promised to be a fatherly shepherd of the people. It reminds us that burden of leadership and authority is at all times about the service of care, guidance, and protection of those entrusted to us. It is never about our personal achievement, gain, or honor because the people will intuitively know when a person is primarily for self-glory. We know when our leaders care about us because they make us feel good and our trust increases.

Jesus shows us he is not about serving himself when he is hanging on the cross condemned between two criminals. Because he does not save himself, he saves us. He faces the sneers of the rulers and jeers from the soldiers – and he makes it clear that he does not obey them. To the foolish and ignorant, he is a failed leader. His mission to bring the news of the kingdom of God has utterly failed and he ends up dying in the most humiliating, excruciating manner possible. Even the description above his head is designed to mock him: He is the King of the Jews. By shaming Jesus, the rulers debased not only him, but also all of his followers. This is the God we worship – one who was abused and killed.

You would think that Jesus would have found support from among those criminals hanging beside him, but one of them ridiculed him and tried to crush his spirit. Why do we, whose fates are similar, do nasty things to one another? You think we would know better. You think we would recognize our common bond and shared humanity and try to create a better, more compassionate atmosphere. Instead, we pounce upon another in their weak moment. We particularly try to bring down the righteous and those who are trying to do better for themselves and their loved ones. Compassion makes us too vulnerable to offer it to others. Fortunately, we have the model of the good thief who sees the goodness in Jesus and hangs in solidarity with him. He doesn’t try to do or say anything that would change around his situation. He knows he cannot alleviate his pain; he just hangs with him, suffering as he does. This thief gives Jesus the best support he can.

This crucified, tortured Jesus is the one who judges the world. What do you think his perspective might be? How might he view the bad acts we do to one another when no one is looking? I feel quite confident that he stands in solidarity with the crucified people of the world who have no one to represent them. He stands up for the victims of domestic, social, and cultural abuse whose spirits are nearly defeated because of the persistent oppression that erodes the spirit of life. He stands up for those who cannot represent themselves and for those whose voices can no longer be heard. The moral of the story is: Jesus Christ, the crucified Judge, will sympathize most especially with the one who is treated poorly. We already know the verdict: the crucified one will immediately be brought into his kingdom to enjoy time with God in Paradise.

Relationships are complex and most of us do not have right relations with everyone we know. We do not always treat people as honorably as they deserve, whether they are a janitor, domestic worker, boss, fellow automobile driver, or a relative. We sometimes treat our family the worst of anyone. Can your heart open up a bit and make some room for compassion? I guarantee you that this person needs your kindness or at least your patience. It does not mean we make excuses for bad behavior, but we can still find beauty in a person whose behavior upsets us. As Christians, we have to learn to stand in solidarity with those people we may not like.

We know that Jesus will look upon victims of power plays with mercy, but we wonder too about his view of those who bully? He knows that, at times, we all have hurt someone or been the victim of someone else’s mean intentions. He is present to the victim each time an offense occurs and he is suffering with us, just as the good thief did with him. To paraphrase Paul of Tarsus, “We do not always do the good we want to do and we do the bad things we hate to do.” Fear not the judgment of Jesus. In fact, we have to rejoice at his judgment and see it as a good thing he does for us. Two thousands years ago as he hung upon that cross, he forgave every sin in the universe – those already committed, those we do today, and those we will do in the future. He has already forgiven us because his judgment is one of mercy.

When we recognize this, our response will spontaneously be one of gratitude and praise. Why then do we walk around as if we are not forgiven? We carry guilt and shame that he has already wiped away? Our King has freed us because he is our pastoral king who wants us to live in the liberation he earned for our enjoyment. Our freedom takes on responsibility for others because we want them to know our kingly shepherd and the promise he extends.

This is our time to get to know him better. As we gaze lovingly into his humanity, we cannot help be transported to his divinity where we come to know him as the image of our invisible God, within whom all were created through and for him, as the one who is before all things and in him all things hold together. He is our head, the Alpha and Omega, and in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things to himself. This is our God. This is our King. This is our all-merciful Judge. Let us give thanks and praise.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In the passage from Daniel, young Israelites make the sacrifice of abstaining from meat to avoid breaking their dietary laws. Since they gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel the understanding of visions and dreams, they entered the King’s service. Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream saying, “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed and God will put an end to all other kingdoms.” Nebuchadnezzar’s son held a banquet where the fingers of a human hand appeared writing on the plaster of the wall. Daniel was brought in to interpret the signs of MENE, TEKEL, PERES, which means ‘your kingdom as been divided because you have been found wanting and your land will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Daniel was found praying, which was against the king’s prohibition. He was cast into the lion’s den, but remained overnight unscathed. The next day, those who accused Daniel were cast into the den where the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. King Darius gave great joy because he was worried for Daniel. In a night vision, Daniel sees the four winds of heaven stirred up from the great sea. As these visions continued, he saw the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven and he received dominion, glory, and kingship because the Ancient One. Daniel sees the fourth beast in his vision, which represents the persecutor Antiochus, who died an unhappy death. Kingship and dominion is given to the holy people of the Most High, while temporal kingdoms perish.

Gospel: Jesus praises the actions of a lowly woman who put two small coins into the temple treasury. She gave from her means rather than from her surplus. Jesus then talks about the near-future time when the Temple will be destroyed and people will be looking for the Christ. He encourages them to persevere in the coming times of persecution and death. Those who persevere will be hated because of the name of Jesus but not a hair on their heads will be destroyed. Jesus knows the desolation of Jerusalem is at hand and there will be signs in the sun, moon, stars, and on earth that nations will be is dismay, but the faithful ones will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Jesus points out a fig tree and asks them to ponder the mystery of the Kingdom of God. When you see signs that foretell the Kingdom’s coming, know that heaven and earth will pass away but his words will endure. Jesus warns people to be vigilant that they may have the strength to escape imminent tribulations and to be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Saints of the Week

November 24: Andrew Dung-Lac and companion martyrs (1785-1839) were missionaries to Vietnam during the 17th through 19th centuries. Over 130,000 Christians were killed, including priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people. Many of these were Vietnamese citizens.

Fourth Thursday: Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. is derived from a mix of European and Native American traditions. Joyous festivals were held in Europe to give thanks for a good harvest and to rejoice with others for their hard work. It is a day to give thanks for the many blessings we have received through God's generosity throughout the year.

November 25: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, (d. 310) is said to have been born in Egypt to a noble family. She was educated and converted to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man arranged to be her husband by the emperor, and she denounced him for persecuting Christians. She was arrested, tortured, and killed.

November 26: John Berchmans, S.J., religious (1599-1621), was a Jesuit scholastic who is the patron saint of altar servers. He was known for his pious adherence to the rules and for his obedience. He did well in studies, but was seized with a fever during his third year of philosophy and died at the age of 22.

November 29: Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, S.J., religious (1711-1735) was the first and main apostle to the devotion of the Sacred Heart. He entered the novitiate in Spain at age 14 and took vows at 17. He had mystical visions of the Sacred Heart. He was ordained in January 1735 with a special dispensation because he was not old enough. A few weeks after celebrating his first mass, he contracted typhus and died on November 29th.

November 30: Andrew, apostle (first century) was a disciple of John the Baptist and the brother of Simon Peter. Both were fishermen from Bethsaida. He became one of the first disciples of Jesus. Little is known of Andrew's preaching after the resurrection. Tradition places him in Greece while Scotland has deep devotion to the apostle.  

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Nov 24, 1963: The death of John LaFarge, pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States.
·      Nov 25, 1584: The Church of the Gesu, built in Rome for the Society by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, was solemnly consecrated.
·      Nov 26, 1678: In London the arrest and imprisonment of St Claude la Colombiere. He was released after five weeks and banished.
·      Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr. Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.
·      Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.
·      Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. "She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.

·      Nov 30, 1642: The birth of Br Andrea Pozzo at Trent, who was called to Rome in 1681 to paint the flat ceiling of the church of San Ignazio so that it would look as though there were a dome above. There had been a plan for a dome but there was not money to build it. His work is still on view.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spirituality: Apostolic Discernment in Common

It goes without saying that the involvement of everyone in searching for the will of God seems more appropriate at a time when the complexity of situations renders more difficult the analysis of their various aspects. Thus, to the need for participation is added the necessity, for the analysis of complex situations, of having recourse to every inspiration, human and spiritual, which the members of a community can bring. On the other hand, if everyone has been involved in the preparation of apostolic decisions, everyone is in a position to appropriate better those decisions which are taken. In any case, it should be clear that, far from limiting the exercise of authority and willingness to obey, the practice of discernment in common does no more than prepare the decision to be made by a competent superior. It does this by offering him all the aids of light, reflection, and prayer which can help him arrive more expeditiously at the will of God "here and now."

Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, November 5, 1985