Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 20, 2015
Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

            Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth is the first time that Mary can rejoice in the unusual events that involve her. Prior to this encounter, Mary and Joseph discussed her pregnancy in private as Joseph decided to keep Mary as his wife. Elizabeth brings about relief, as she knows immediately that Mary is with child. Mary’s secret is out and together they celebrate their good fortune and share stories of how they feeling about these surprising events. Connecting with others is important human need.

            Soon we will be doing our own visitations for Christmas and New Years. Many will do lots of traveling to homes of loved ones and we wonder if we will have the same joyful welcome and stay as Mary did at Elizabeth’s. A few weeks ago, I over-heard two seventy-five year old women talking about the holidays. One said, “Ugh, the holidays are coming. That means more family fights and problems. The holidays seem to come too fast.” At the next mass, I heard another woman say to her friend, “I like Halloween more and more each year. I get to dress up and act silly, but the best part is that no family is involved.” I cringed when I heard both statements because sadly these women are not enjoying the holiday that is supposed to be our day of love, joy, and goodwill. Our expectations of family gatherings disappoint too many people, yet we live in hope that the Christmas message will seep into our hearts and we will have a groundbreaking moment of mercy.

            Mary, in her hardship, placed herself in a vulnerable position to see Elizabeth, who greeted her with gracious hospitality. We place ourselves at risk when we make the trip to a relative’s house. Often there is at least one person who will not talk with someone else or else the room is filled with a chilled reception. Certain topics cannot be broached and people step carefully in their conversation so they do not disturb the precarious balance. Elizabeth’s reception of Mary shows us how to find the Christ that is developing in each of us. If mercy is defined as entering into the chaos of another’s life, then certainly we need Christ to enter into our lives. Mercy will help us more than endure it; it will make us into a new people that are becoming more Christ-like.

            What we do not see when we meet Elizabeth and Mary are John and Jesus, but they are respectively growing within them. When we greet one another, we cannot see each other as finished products, but people who are developing the Christ within us. Christ is always growing within us. Sometimes we provide the conditions for his greater growth; other times we hinder his growth, but as Christians we know that he will radiate from our lives. When we fail to greet another person, we fail to greet Christ. We have to get over ourselves and see the larger picture forming around us.

            This is a place where we must call mercy from the depths of our souls, even though we will feel vulnerable and at great risk to our stability. Christ’s mercy offers us a new paradigm and we should choose it because our ways are not working. Mercy is about entering into the chaos of another, and this is precisely what Christ does. Let’s give him a chance. If we get out of the way, his glory will shine through us. His influence will grow as he illuminates our choices. We are all giving birth to the new life that is Christ. His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace. His peace needs an opportunity to take root through our welcoming of one another. Rejoice and celebrate each other in peace.   

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
·      Monday: (Song of Songs 2) Hark! My lover – here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
·      Tuesday: (1 Samuel 1) Hannah brought Samuel with her to the temple of the Lord to offer him. As long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.
·      Wednesday: (Malachi 3) Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before you. And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.       
·      Thursday: (2 Samuel 7) King David settled into his palace and was filled with pangs of guilt because the Lord was housed in a tent. The Lord said, “Your house and kingdom will endure forever.”   
·      Friday (Isaiah 9) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone.  
·      Saturday (Acts 6) Stephen, filled with grace and power, worked great wonders and signs among the people, but the people could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit in which he spoke.

Gospel: 
·      Monday: (Luke 2) Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
·      Tuesday: (Luke 1) Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
·      Wednesday (Luke 1) When the baby was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, the time came to name him. Relatives wanted to call him after his father, who interjected and said, “His name is John.”
·      Thursday (Luke 1) Zechariah sang: Blessed be the God of Israel for he has come to his people to set them free.
·      Friday (Luke 2) Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.   
·      Saturday (Matthew 10) Beware of me, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues and you will be led before governors and kinds for my sake.

Saints of the Week

December 20 - O key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, opening the gates of God's eternal kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness.

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 their desire, 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, the hope of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, Lord our God.

December 24: ERO CRAS

In the Roman Catholic tradition, on December 23, the last of the seven “O Antiphons” is sung with the “Alleluia” verse before the Gospel reading at Mass and at Vespers – Evening Prayer in the Divine Office/Breviary. Most ordinary Catholics, however, are more accustomed to hearing these antiphons as verses in the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

But the literary construction of these wonderful antiphons is arranged in a unique and surprising way: The order of the seven Messianic titles of the “O Antiphons” (and the seven verses of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”) was fixed with a definite purpose.

In Latin, the initial letters of the antiphons – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – form a reverse acrostic – a play on words – ERO CRAS, which translates into English as “Tomorrow, I will be.”

So, in the silence of Christmas Eve, we look back on the previous seven days, and we hear the voice of the One whose coming we have prepared for – Jesus Christ – speak to us: “I will be here tomorrow.”

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.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 20, 1815. An ukase of Alexander I was published banishing the Society of Jesus from St Petersburg and Moscow on the pretext that they were troubling the Russian Church.
·      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.