Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Family of Joseph, Jesus, and Mary

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Holy Family
December 28, 2014
Genesis 15: 1-6, 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40

A choral conductor once remarked, “Give your best to each performance because someone in the audience will hear this music for the very first time. Open their ears to the wonder of music. There will also be someone sitting before you who hears your song for the very last time. Give them the most memorable gift you can because they will carry this gift forward with them in life.” These memory moments sustain our hope in God for a lifetime.

While Advent is the great period of waiting for our Savior’s coming, Christmas begins a new period of waiting – waiting for the promise to become fleshed in to our world. The church focuses upon Abram as our archetype of waiting and trusting. Abram was at the verge of losing hope that he would bear a son to carry on his lineage, but Abram placed his trust in God when he looked up into the sky to count the stars. By faith, Abram received the power to generate even though he was past the normal age and Sarah herself was sterile. He received the promises of the Lord, even to the point of offering his only son, because he reasoned that God was able to raise new life even from the dead. So immense was God’s power that his response was to trust greatly.

The Gospel gives us Simeon and Anna as two Old Testament figures that spent their days waiting for the good news that God will console them. They find themselves at the beginning of something new and they do not have enough time to wait for the unfolding of the fulfillment. They receive from God a sign of a new era of promise and they are left to wonder about the bright possibilities now that their enslavement has ended. Like Abram, when they need to remember the promises, they look up into the sky and trust in God – for everything is out of their control. God will always give us hope. Faith is trusting in that hope.

The parents of Jesus recognize immediately that they must trust in God because the expectations of others are heaped upon their son. They learn that forces beyond them will shape the life of their young boy. Jesus is a symbol of their trust in God and God’s trust in them. They know they are at the start of something new that will be wondrous and fraught with suffering and heartache, but that God’s plan will bring about something mysterious that they may not ever understand. They learn to trust. Because Joseph and Mary were obedient to God, Jesus was given to them to learn the obedience of faith. When they returned to Nazareth, Jesus learned how to obey his parents and religious community in order to understand what it meant to obey God.

In our own families, we have to help each other trust more. As much as we think we know each other, let us give one another a chance to tell our own stories, especially our stories of faith. Each of our experiences is different and our hearts will turn toward one another when we recognize the similarities and divergences of these experiences. We have to know that we are part of something larger that is happening; this way we will not get so immersed in our petty squabbles. If we can politely help each other see one another’s goodness, we’ll enjoy happier times together. We do not know if this is someone’s last Christmas celebration and we want them to have the happiest memories of us before they carry those memories forward as they meet Christ in heaven.

We are a thoughtful and considerate people. Let’s be even more appreciative of the Simeons and Annas and Abrams and Sarais in our families and for those whose stories we hardly even know. Let’s ask parents and children alike about formative stories in their lives because we will certainly be surprised by their experiences. Our worldview is not set in stone and we can have a metanoia when we discover another person’s truth that is very different from what we thought was true. Our hearts will be changed and we will place greater trust in God, who is involved in all our activities. Our trust in God will give us a bird’s eye view of our interactions and will be more restful in our dealings with relatives who are grouchy towards us. Somehow we have to open up their lives so they may experience they joy of being with us once again.

Everyone deserves to receive the Christ child. Let us do what we can to clear the path for everyone to be able to hold him and gaze upon him and to have the joyful mysteries of salvation be opened for them. We want everyone to experience the grace of hope and trust. Then, we wait once again. God’s plan will unfold and we are merely witnesses to it. Let’s pray unceasingly that the promises of God bring hope to everyone – but especially to those whose spirits need to be invigorated. May the heart of the Christ child grow deeply in your hearts. Merry Christmas.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (1 John 2) We prove that we know Jesus if we keep his commandments. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Tuesday: (I John 2) I write to you because your sins have been forgiven, because you know him from the beginning, because you have conquered the evil one, and because you are strong and the word of God remains in you.
Wednesday: (1 John 2) Children, this is the last hour and you have heard the antichrist is coming. I write to you because you know the truth and every lie is alien to the truth.
Thursday: (Numbers 6) This is how you should bless them: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.
Friday: (1 John 2) Children, remain in Christ Jesus, so when he appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by him at his coming.
Saturday: (1 John 2) If you consider that God is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him.

Monday: (Luke 2) The parents of Jesus took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. They met a man named Simeon who was awaiting the consolation of Israel.
Tuesday: (Luke 2) The parents of Jesus met Anna who gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
Wednesday: (John 1) 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.
Thursday: (Luke 2) The shepherds made haste to Bethlehem where they saw Joseph and Mary. The saw the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and they believed. Mary held all these memories in her heart.  
Friday: (John 1) When questioned about his identity, John the Baptist answered, “I am not the Christ. I am a voice crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.
Saturday: (John 1) John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Saints of the Week

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. 

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.”

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.

·      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.

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