Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 21, 2014
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 24; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38


God’s promise to dwell within each of us in conveyed in these Advent stories. This God who so often seems inaccessible turns around our plans and assures us of God’s intention to remain faithful to us. This is surprisingly clear in 2nd Samuel when David gets a brilliant insight. Since he is living in a house of cedar and the Lord is much more important than he, David decides to build a finer dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant than to keep him under a flimsy tent. Sometimes we give gifts to others that are filled with goodwill but are not what the giver wants to receive. In this instance, God, through the prophet Nathan, tells David something to this effect, “I am the one who gives gifts. I do not want what you plan to give me. I have shepherded you and cared for you when you could not notice. I will fix a place for my people and I will establish my house in your kingdom. It shall endure forever before me. My reign shall endure within your house.”

In the Gospel, God once again tells humanity that it is God’s wish to dwell with them. He chooses a young woman from Palestine to receive this gift of new life, a virgin who will become the savior’s mother. God chose the most intimate way of being a part of us – to become fully one of us. God’s life will remain embedded with humanity until the end of time. God chooses us and we are dumbfounded when we look around at each other and ask why.

In our daily prayer, we often look for God and we sit and wait and hope for a clear response. These two Advent sequences flip things around for David and Mary. Perhaps we have to toss things around in our prayer so that instead of directing our attention at God, we simply notice God directing attention at us. This shift in direction is crucial. When we let this happen, we let prayer be accomplished along God’s initiative. It is not that we search for God, it is that God has already found us and is seeking us. We have to notice that God is gazing upon us the way we marvel at the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree. God’s dwelling is already within us; we do not have to look on the outside anymore.

Some of us get uncomfortable when someone stares at us because we know we are desired in some way. What if we just showed up to prayer and realized God’s stare is riveted upon us because God warmly desires to be with us. We do not have to do anything but to let God come closer – something we both want. Even God’s most intense gaze is enough for us to handle because God’s parental care is communicated so thoroughly that we just receive what God extends to us.

Sometimes we do not want to show up to pray because events as not going so well. Though we try to be a loving person who follows the road of discipleship, we are left feeling beaten down by the tactics of others who tell us there’s something wrong with us. Others can make us feel miserable and we begin to diminish our self worth. These are the times when we avoid prayer at all costs because we figure God might not like our ways either, but these are especially the times that we have to sit before God in prayer – just to have God look upon us and heal us because of the many ways others have sinned against us and beaten us down. Allow God to be a loving parent to that part of you that is raw and unhealed and needs a blessing. Know that there is nothing wrong with you and that God just wants to bless you with love and grace. The gaze is gentle and tender and is a balm for all the world’s ills. God wants you to become strengthened by God’s compassion so that you may bring the gift of yourself to others – with warts and freckles, dimples and birthmarks. God finds it beautiful. We need to discover the beauty God sees within us.

In Advent, we find ourselves being blessed by God, similarly to the way Mary was. Within her grew the Christ-child, who would be given to others as a gift. Let the rest of this Advent be about receiving God’s breathtaking stare of every single graced moment of your day. Allow God to delight in you as you gracefully respond to God’s watchful eyes that glimmer and sparkle brighter than those Christmas tree lights. Know that you entrance God with you goodness, even in your struggles. God had promised to make his house within yours. God promised us Emmanuel – that God is with us. Now it is time to let him grow so he may delivered for the world’s salvation.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (1 Samuel 1) Hannah offered Samuel to the Lord to grow in obedience to the faith.
Tuesday: (Malachi 3) I send my messenger before me to prepare the way and suddenly the Lord will appear. I will send you Elijah the prophet.
Wednesday: (2 Samuel 7) When David settled into his place, he realized the Lord was residing in a flimsy tent. David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but the Lord promised that he would reside within the House of David.
Thursday: (Isaiah 62) The Lord proclaims, “Your savior comes, O daughter Zion.” He shall be called holy and the Lord will frequent the holy city.
Friday: (Acts 6) His tormentors, before Saul, kill Stephen, filled with grace. As they stoned him, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Saturday: (1 John 1) What we have heard from the beginning concerns the Word of Life – for life was made visible, life with the Father. We now have fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Luke 1) Mary sings her song of gladness to Elizabeth as the two women show gratitude for the remarkable life God has given them to carry.
Tuesday: (Luke 1) Elizabeth gave birth to her son and on the 8th day when they were to circumcise and name him, she said, “He will be called John.” Zechariah confirmed it and his mute tongue was loosed again.
Wednesday: (Luke 1) Zechariah, regaining his speech, sings his Benedictus in honor of his son, John.
Thursday: (Luke 2) When the angels left, the shepherds came to see the newborn infant. They knew the message made known to them by the angel was true. Their savior was born.  
Friday: (Matthew 10) Beware of men for they will hand you over to courts and will scourge you. You will be led to places you do not want to go, but my spirit will teach you what to say.      
Saturday: (John 20) On the 1st day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran to Simon Peter to tell him, “They have taken the Lord away and we do not know where they put him.”

Saints of the Week

December 21 - O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21: Peter Canisius, S.J., priest and religious (1521-1597), was sent to Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and Switzerland during the time of the Protestant Reformation to reinvigorate the Catholic faith. He directed many through the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. He is a doctor of the church for his work in bringing many people back to the faith.

December 22 - O King of all nations and keystone of the church: come and save us, whom you formed from the dust.

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

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.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 21, 1577. In Rome, Fr. Juan de Polanco, secretary to the Society and very dear to Ignatius, died.
·      Dec 22, 1649. At Cork, Fr. David Glawey, a missionary in the Inner and Lower Hebrides, Islay, Oronsay, Colonsay, and Arran, died.
·      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.