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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018
Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

Has your Advent put you on a path where you are readier to receive the good news that the Christ child will bring to you? I suggest that we examine those areas where we have grown in love because any movement towards love is a movement towards God. We also look at those places where compassion needs to touch our hurts so we can heal to continue our journey to wholeness, to a place our real selves are engaged again, to a place we call home, for Advent is about returning home to ourselves.

In today’s Gospel, we meet Elizabeth welcoming Mary into her home. Both women prepared their homes for the arrival of their sons, and they each honored one another. We are busy preparing our homes for Christmas guests or we are planning to visit loved ones in their homes. As Mary and Elizabeth truly connected, as the unborn Christ Child and the unborn John the Baptist connected, we must prepare our souls to connect meaningfully with our loved ones. It is what we really want – to be met, to be welcomed, to be honored, to be cherished in one’s own home. Our homes are our places of encounter where we will have great meals, but also where we can be spiritually and emotionally nourished.

         Perhaps we need to prepare more mindfully about how we will spend this short, valuable time together. How can we do that? Everyone wants the holiday visits to be happy and we live in hope that it might magically happen this year, but everyone has a different sense of what will make them happy. We can ask this very question before the gathering, “What will make you happy this Christmastime? What does it look like for you?” Once we know what people want, and we want them to be happy, we are likely to do whatever is reasonable to make them happy.

         Let me tell you that just showing up and reliving the same family patterns will probably not lead to a fulfilling visit. Mary did not just show up for Elizabeth. She tended to her needs and made her comfortable, and they talked about the joys and worries about their pregnancies. They spent valuable and mundane time together. Likewise, we have to spend one-on-one time with each other. Spouses, partners, and special friends, take time to nurture this primary relationship. Decide to spend some quiet moments alone and ask each other questions to learn something new about each other that helps you fall in love again or stay in love. Children, at whatever age you are, take time to ask your parents how they are feeling. Let them know you are grateful that they take care of you so well. Parents, at whatever age you are, find some alone time with each child so that individually he or she knows that you have a special place in your heart for your child. Speak words to accept and affirm them. Let them hear your words plainly and from your heart. You once spoke them easily before life intervened. You can do it again. It is the reason they are returning home.

         If people are coming from out-of-town or college-age children are returning home, plan how you will spend the time together before they fill their time with other plans. They want to visit you. They returned home to be with you. They want to spend time with you, and if you don’t plan time with them, they will find someone who wants to spend time with them. We are complex people and not everyone will be able to respond right away to your loving initiatives, but maybe they can next year or even the following year. And then, of course, the narcissists among us present opportunities for our growing edges.

         The season for being with one another is about to commence. We have been preparing our homes for the advent of the Christ child. Connecting and engaging with those whom we love will bring us the joy we seek. It will provide the meaning to the holidays we expect when we first eagerly made our plans. If we can receive others well and speak words that nourish, then we will receive the little child, who is God-with-us, and if we can receive the Christ-child, we can receive anyone into our lives as a blessing.

         This is my prayer for you: When the doors of welcome opens, may you receive a wide smile, a warm hug, an unconditional embrace home, and may your heart leap for joy just as John the Baptist’s did, and may you find in each other the fundamental love that exists, maybe buried over in rubble, but may it rise up to the surface and bubble over. I pray that your heart leaps for joy this Christmas, and, as I prayed for you before, May God spoil you rotten.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Zechariah 2) Rejoice, O daughter Zion. I am coming to dwell among you. The Lord will possess Judah and he will again choose Jerusalem.

Tuesday: (Zephaniah 3) On that day, I will change and purify their lips that they may call upon the name of the Lord. You shall not exalt yourself on my holy mountain.

Wednesday: (Isaiah 45) I am the Lord; there is no other; I form the light and create the darkness. Turn to be and be safe all you ends of the earth for I am the Lord, your God.

Thursday: (Isaiah 54) Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear, break forth in jubilant song you who were not in labor.    

Friday (Isaiah 56) Observe what is right; do what is just; for my salvation is about to come; my justice is about to be revealed.

Saturday (Genesis 49) Jacob said: You Judah, shall your brothers praise. The scepter will never depart from you, or the mace from between your legs.  

Monday: (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. 

Tuesday: (Matthew 21) A man had two sons – one who said no, but did what his father asked; the other who said yes, but did not do what he asked. Which son was better?

Wednesday (Luke 7) The Baptist sent his disciples at ask: Are you the one who is to come? Look around: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the poor hear the good news.

Thursday (Luke 7) Jesus asked: Why did you go out to see the Baptist? He is the greatest of men born to women.   

Friday (John 5) The Baptist was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his lift, but I have greater testimony than John’s.

Saturday (Matthew 1) The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus.

Saints of the Week

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.

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.

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.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      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.

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