Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Second Sunday in Advent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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The Second Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2016
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

            Isaiah and John the Baptist, two towering Advent figures, meet on this Second Sunday of Advent. Both are important prophets but each has a unique preaching style. Isaiah is the poet with lyrical verses that encourage people to return in confidence to their homeland of Israel from the exile. Many blessings await the ones who remain faithful. The Lord, as promised, will revive their broken spirits. John preaches ascetical repentance. His is the lonely voice that calls people to ask for forgiveness of their sins so that God remembers them.  John also spoke through his action – baptizing people as they acknowledged their lowliness before God.

             Each prophet has a different vision of heaven. Isaiah presents an idyllic world that is to come where there is no hostility or hatred. All the lines of division are gone and no walls exist. Natural enemies become friends and they decide to enjoy one another. The Lord provides everyone anything that is needed and the good will come out as victors. Fear cannot exist in this world where peace reigns. The virtues of wisdom and understanding are upheld are primary ones. Isaiah sees goodness and encourages everyone to work for it.

            John’s image of the world is vastly different. He wants everyone to rightly acknowledge who they are before the Lord. He wants no puffed up illusions of self-grandeur or self-importance. Our moral actions need purification because we stray far from the goal and he wants to help us get back there by the grace of God. In these readings, he goes after the hypocritical Pharisees, who may be having a change of heart. He wants them to prove that their baptism is effective through their actions by producing good works. If they do not, they will have to reckon with Christ, who will judge the people as a reaper clears the wheat from the chaff.
            The major points are clear: We have to trust in God’s promises to us and conform our actions to our beliefs. In Isaiah’s world, our small, unnoticed actions are essential for the larger vision to unfold. Each good action leads to further good actions and when the goodness catches on fire, we see that peace miraculously fits into our world. God’s grace helps it unfold. As God works by gentle, unseen invitations, our actions must replicate God’s. In John’s world, assessing our attitudes and actions are indispensible for keeping us prepared for God’s promises. Gentleness and humility are part of it, and right relations with our neighbors are essential. John recognizes that integrity makes words credible and our actions have to emerge from our humility – our rightful stance before God. Each vision is contained in God’s larger universe.

Pay attention to the particular styles of the prophets in your life. Which voice do you need to hear? What message will stir your heart? Where does the Lord need to touch your Advent life this year? The Lord’s mercy is endless. As Isaiah encourages, take time to daydream, and as John exhorts, take time for honest reflection about the direction of your life. Each of these prophets wants to be heard. You need to be heard. This is the time to ask the Lord to prepare your hearts for what you most need. Healing? Strength or courage? Greater understanding? This is the time to crack open the world that encloses us so that the Lord’s graces can reach into it and bring us the hope we need. Be extra gentle with yourselves this time of year. Slow it down and learn how to balance the work-life demands. Slow it down because no one will do it for you. Stop. Listen. Hear. The Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Isaiah 35) Here is your God, he comes with vindication. The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 40) Give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.
Wednesday: (Isaiah 40) Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things. Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Thursday: (Genesis 3) After Adam ate of the tree, God called to him, “Where are you?” I heard you were in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.   
Friday (Isaiah 48) I, the Lord, will teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. Hearken to my commandments.
Saturday (Sirach 48) A prophet named Elijah appeared whose words were as a flaming furnace. By the Lord’s word, he shut up the heavens and brought down fire three times.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Luke 5) After Jesus healed the man on a stretcher, he forgave his sins. The scribes and Pharisees protested and asked, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies?”
Tuesday: (Matthew 18) If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them is lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?
Wednesday (Matthew 11) Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.
Thursday (Luke 1) The angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin betrothed to Joseph to announce that the Holy Spirit would overpower her and she would conceive a son.  
Friday (Matthew 11) How shall I consider you? I played a dirge for you and you would not mourn; I played a flute for you and you would not dance.
Saturday (Matthew 17) As Jesus came down the mountain, the disciples asked, “Why do they say Elijah must come first?” Elijah has come and will indeed come to restore all things.

Saints of the Week

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.

December 8: The Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated today, which is nine months before her birth in September. The Immaculate Conception prepares her to become the mother of the Lord. Scripture tells of the annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Mary's assent to be open to God's plan makes our salvation possible.

December 9: Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548) was a poor, simple, indigenous man who was visited by Mary in 1531. She instructed him to build a church at Guadalupe near Mexico City. During another visit, she told him to present flowers to the bishop. When he did, the flowers fell from his cape to reveal an image of Mary that is still revered today.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Dec. 8, 1984: Walter Ciszek, prisoner in Russia from 1939 to 1963, died.
·      Dec. 9, 1741: At Paris, Fr. Charles Poree died. He was a famous master of rhetoric. Nineteen of his pupils were admitted into the French Academy, including Voltaire, who, in spite of his impiety, always felt an affectionate regard for his old master.

·      Dec 10, 1548. The general of the Dominicans wrote in defense of the Society of Jesus upon seeing it attacked in Spain by Melchior Cano and others.