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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 18, 2016
Isaiah 35: 1-6, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

            Matthew opens his mysterious story of the Incarnation with a great introduction: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. After reciting the genealogy of Joseph beginning with Abraham, we expect a simple, realistic story to line up, but we get something completely different: a virgin mother and an honorable man urged by an angel to take a pregnant woman who was overpowered by a Spirit as his wife. Certainly, God did not choose an easy, predictable route for Jesus to be born. It makes for a good story that is easy to pass on through generations, but everything had to line up correctly for the story to occur. Not only did Mary have to say “yes” to let this happen, Joseph also had to consent, which is difficult to do in an hon0r-shame society.

            The truth that stands out best of all is the line: “They shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” This is the truth we must hold onto. Jesus was born into our lives to bring us closer to the heart of God in order to understand his heart, values, attitudes, and intentions to care for us. Most of all he wants to show us that God desperately wants to be in our sufferings so that we can trust in God’s tenderness.

            This year is our longest possible time in Advent – a full four weeks – and it is supposed to be a time of patient waiting, with sprinkles of joy and gladness. When we have those moments, it is very good for us to hang onto them because life continues to throw challenges at us. For some people, it is difficult to really celebrate Advent and Christmas with great joy. Those days are illusions of the past.

            How does a middle-age woman who places her father with Alzheimer’s into a specialized care facility celebrate Christmas when her dad no longer has an identity? Or the mother who buries a twenty-four year old son who died of a heroin overdose? Or the son who spends every night with his mother in a nursing home knowing she will never return home for the holidays? The absentee father, the alcoholic sister, the medicated cousin. How do we spend Christmas with people who do not even know it is Christmas anymore?

            These are the moments Christmas becomes meaningful. When we realize that we are sitting with others in their darkness, we know Christ is visiting us. We cannot take away anyone’s pain or sorrow, but we can simply be with them, which has an effect on us. We know somehow the mood is lighter or the darkness’s veil is lifted and we are content just to look into the eyes of another person and let them know we care for them. Our kindness does more good that we can know.

            This is the Christ story. These are the actions of Jesus. He visits us, as we visit others. He sits with us in our sorrow when we sit with others in theirs. This is the meaning of life. Our whole purpose is to love one another and to give of ourselves in the most simplistic ways we can. Christmas is the victory of light over darkness. Continue to light those candles of kindness because it is the light of God’s love shown by you. Our moments of caring continue to tell the world that “God is with us” and there is always space for God. Unlike the Incarnation story, it is not mysterious, but one that comes about through ordinary human actions of caring, but it is the essential Christmas story. God will always find a place in our world because God does not want us to be in pain.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Judges 13) A barren woman was visited by an angel to receive the message that she would bear a son. She named him Samson and he spirit of the Lord stirred within him.  
Tuesday: (Isaiah 7) This is the sign that you will be given: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and he shall be named Emmanuel.
Wednesday: (Song of Songs 2) My lover come, springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a young stag. Arise my beautiful one. Come.  
Thursday: (1 Samuel 1) Hannah presented her son, Samuel, to the Lord. She left Samuel to grow as a servant of God.     
Friday (Malachi 3) I am sending my messenger before me to prepare the way. I will send you Elijah the prophet to turn the hearts of all people back to God.  
Saturday (2 Samuel 7) When King David settled into his palace, he was distraught because his Lord had no proper abode for himself. The Lord told David that this house will be David’s.

Monday: (Luke 1) Zechariah, on priestly duty, and his wife, Elizabeth, prayed fervently. An angel visited them to announce that they would bear a son, who was to be named John. 
Tuesday: (Luke 1) The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a son who would become the savior of the world. He shall be named Emmanuel.
Wednesday (Luke 1) Mary set out to the hill country to visit Elizabeth and Zechariah. When she entered the house, Elizabeth recognized that Mary was pregnant with the Lord.
Thursday (Luke 1) Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.”   
Friday (Luke 1) When the time came to name Elizabeth and John’s son, they wanted to name him after his dad, but Elizabeth said, “No. He will be called John.”
Saturday (Luke 1) Zechariah sang, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free.”

Saints of the Week

December 18 - O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power.

December 19 - O root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all the people, before you the kings will be silenced, to you the nations will make their prayers: come to save us without delay!

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.”

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 18, 1594. At Florence, the apparition of St Ignatius to St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi.
·      Dec 19, 1593. At Rome, Fr. Robert Bellarmine was appointed rector of the Roman College.
·      Dec 20, 1815. A 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.

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