Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Sunday within the Octave of Christmas
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Information about the Feast of the Holy Family
Readings for Sunday within the Octave of Christmas


We are given lots of options in the scripture selections for today’s Feast. It reminds us once more that we belong to a universal Church that must consider all nations, cultures, and circumstances in its worship.

Reading 1
Sir 3:2-7, 12-14

This reading from Sirach is essentially an exposition of the Commandment to Honor your father and mother. I goes into greater length about the positive benefits that come to the person who does so and does link to early Hebrew belief that the honor received by the father of a house hold was transferred to the children (just as in the omitted verses 8-11, the sins are also transmitted to the children).

1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28

We are given in this passage the story of the birth and dedication of Samuel (see also
Friday of the Third Week of Advent). Samuel is dedicated from his birth to the service of God in the very strict form of servitude called nazirite (Nazirite: from the Hebrew word nazir, meaning "set apart as sacred, dedicated, vowed." The nazirite vow could be either for a limited period or for life. Those bound by this vow had to abstain from all the products of the grapevine, from cutting or shaving their hair, and from contact with a corpse. They were regarded as men of God like the prophets; cf Amos 2:11-12)

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

We are given in the beginning of Ps. 128 a song of thanksgiving with the typical blessings for following and having faith in the Lord. This selection features the blessing a family brings to the faithful using the symbolism of vines and olives so favored by even the Lord.

Ps 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10.
R. Blessed are they who dwell in your house, O Lord.

In this selection from Ps. 84 we are given a cry of longing for the heavenly kingdom. This song rejoices in the journey while anticipating its end.

Reading II
Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17

Here we have the rather controversial family hierarchy of the era described by St. Paul. It is important to note the instruction given in the first part of this reading (note: the option is given to omit this part of scripture passage for pastoral reasons). Paul describes the Christian rules for relationships; “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another”.

When the subordinated relationships are described below, equality in membership in the family is established.

1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24

In this selection from St. John’s first epistle we are reminded that we are all, through our Baptism, adopted children of God and hence, part of his family, the family of the faithful. St. John goes on to remind us of the obligations of that adoption; first, that we believe in Him, Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God. Second, following the formula of the Great Commandment, is that we should love one another.

Lk 2:41-52

St. Luke’s Gospel gives us the story of Jesus being brought to the Temple, as prescribed by Hebrew Law, in his 12th year. We find the family in a bit of turmoil as Jesus exerts his ministry for the first time, finding himself at home in “my Father’s house”.

We hear the very human fear in his parents as the ask him; “Son, why have you done this to us?”. It is one of the few glimpses we have into the Lord’s early life.


I have taken some time this morning trying to do my homework as part of this process. As a consequence of my efforts today I am stricken by great irony. It has come in two forms. First, as I was trying to find a good web site that spoke to the Feast of the Holy Family, other than to just state the obvious. I was surprised to find that I did not find what I was looking for in the usual places. It was not described in the Catholic Encyclopedia at the
New Advent site under that heading. The best I could do in the time I had allotted was the entry in Wikipedia which is generally my second choice since it is open forum information subject to unqualified edits. Still it was the best I could find quickly.

The second part of the irony I experienced this morning relates to my search. At the New Advent site I discovered for the first time a Blog. The topic I arrived at dealt with the film; The Nativity, the author having invited
comments about the film from site traffic. I suppose I should not have been surprised by some of the comments. What I found from some of what I would term as conservative readers was a vociferous attack on the film as “anti-Catholic”, fundamentally flawed, and non-scriptural. These comments were made in the face of the facts; the film premiered at the Vatican (you can bet the Curia watched it before giving the OK for that “first time ever” event) and a rather glowing review by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I suppose I should have expected some of the more narrow-minded comments. They tended to take umbrage at the portrayal of the roles of Mary and to a lesser degree Joseph. The sense I got was these brothers and sisters who are traveling the same road we are cannot accept that their image of what the real events that took place in Bethlehem and Nazareth those millennia ago must be the dogmatically correct view and that anyone who describes those events in a less mystical way must be heretical.

We (my wife and I) went to see the film with our closest friends, the members of our CFM (Christian Family Movement) group with whom we have met and shared for the past several years. Among that atypical group (I call them “atypical” because they are, as a group, some of the most impressively passionate scripture students and are keenly knowledgeable of the Teaching Magesterium of the Church as one might expect of a group drawn from the Ann Arbor community in one of the more conservative parishes in the Diocese of Lansing.) there was some uneasiness. We spoke about the very “fine line” the movie took in depicting Mary as human and saintly. We recognized as a group that the film tried to, and in most cases did, remain faithful to Holy Scripture. We also knew that the depiction of Mary would not sit well with individuals whose devotion to our Holy Mother was more to the Coredemptrix (quasi-deification) side of Marianism, while it would be well accepted by our Protestant brethren who, with their lower Christology have a less mystical view of her.

On this the Feast of the Holy Family we do well to remember that St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus who is the Christ, while the most atypical of families, were none the less a very human family as our Gospel depicts. That humanness is what sets them apart, since it was their role to be the arch-example of families for all time. God did not simply create Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus to be slaves to His will. They were born and raised by their own parents. They were raised as children of God with special grace, yes, but no less human.

It is their humanness that gives us hope as parents and as Christians. They reached beyond themselves to achieve what God called them to be. We are given that example of Family today that we might follow their example and find God’s peace and love as they did.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Readings for the 6th Day in the Octave of Christmas


Reading 1
1 Jn 2:12-17

St. John addresses his audience singularly on Sin and forgiveness using an interesting metaphor for the trinity; Children, Fathers, Young Men. He focuses in his last paragraph on avoiding the secular focus on “things” of the world, saying that they are of the world and therefore unworthy, leading away from God.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 96:7-8a, 8b-9, 10
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

While a song of praise, the psalmist reminds us that even in praise we need to offer what we have in gratitude. The structure is familiar – we are given first the audience, then the response, and final praise as a response from God.

Lk 2:36-40

Continuing our story surrounding the presentation of Jesus, today we hear from the prophetess Anna. She echoes the words of Simeon saying that this young baby is the redemption of Jerusalem – in short the Messiah.


Is the glow of the Nativity of the Lord starting to fade? Are we beginning to plan for the new calendar year, thinking about the resolutions we should make and how to make this a good year for us and for our family? On this, the sixth day since we celebrated that great feast we are reminded by St. John that we should recall why Jesus came to us and what we should do in response.

The implication of this scripture passage captures the agelessness of the truth. By addressing his letter first to children he captures the young who unknowingly receive the grace of God through the forgiveness of their sins for no other reason than it was his mission and his mission was him and he was the Word made flesh.

Next he writes to Fathers – metaphorically those who are older, who lead us. To them he says that the knowledge of the Father’s great love has been with them since they were children. This ageless truth is there to lead them.

Finally he addresses “young men”; the youth, those most subject to temptation that comes from the evil one. St. John presumes that if they are hearing the word he has written they have conquered that temptation and have remained faithful to what they were given as children.

St John goes back to the children who, because they are from the faithful are given the faith in God so needed to allow them to grow. He again addresses the fathers, repeating his rational – they have known him all their lives and now walk in his light as an example to those who follow. And finally back to the youth – and again the inference is they have won out over the temptation he describes next.

This then leads us to the key advice we need to hear as we sort through the “things” we received at Christmas. St. John reminds us that the Lord came to us so that we might be HIS. We are to be in the world but apart from the world, not governed by the desires and ambitions of the secular but driven instead by the Holy Spirit which commands us to do all things for the Glory of God.

St. John reminds us that sins of the flesh – covetousness can easily lead down a path of destruction and that “things” acquired to provide the trappings of success are nothing more than pretension and the real victory is a humble one. Perhaps, as we stand in line to return a gift, we might pray that our motives will be found pure and that we will be labeled victorious as we stand before the throne of the Lamb.


Friday, December 29, 2006

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas &
Saint Thomas Beckett; Bishop and Martyr

Biographical Information about St. Thomas Beckett
Readings for the 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas


Reading 1
1 Jn 2:3-11

We are given in this passage two consistent teachings of St. John. First is the injunction to keep “Jesus’” commandments. He uses the same formula we have heard before in this letter. If you say you belong to Christ but do not follow his commandments, you are a liar.

The second teaching is his favorite, perhaps because it is part of the great commandment and fundamental to everything taught by the Lord; “Love one another.” Here St. John again uses the darkness and light theme to demonstrate the one who walks with Christ is in the light and the one who does not walks in darkness and is lost; “…he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 5b-6
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

For us, in the Octave of Christmas, this new song of praise is for the gift of the Messiah; the Christ child whose birth still rings with joy.

Lk 2:22-35

At the time Jesus is presented at the temple as required by strict Jewish Law, we find Simeon, probably an old man in the last years of his life (“…looking forward to the restoration of God's rule in Israel”). Simeon does two important things here – he affirms the nativity story with his profession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the one who came for all so that all might be renewed in Christ and in God the Father. (“…my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”)

The second of Simeon’s actions is to predict to Mary the difficulty her Son will encounter in his ministry (“…to be a sign that will be contradicted”) and the pain it will cause Mary herself “(and you yourself a sword will pierce)”.


Simeon saw, in the child of Mary and Joseph, the love of God that had come to earth for the salvation of the whole human race. The way I envision this event is when Simeon saw the child he must have been drawn to him. When he picked him up (can you see Mary, perhaps 14 or 15 years old gently relinquishing her new baby to gnarled and bearded Simeon?) it must have been like a flash image of the whole human life of Jesus, even culminating in his passion.

Simeon then calls out to God – you told me I would live to see the salvation of this country and people (Israel and the Hebrews) and I have seen them in this child. Go ahead, take me. (In the life of every person of faith there comes that one perfect time when we feel completely in union with the Father and call our in our prayer; “OK, Father, take me now; I’m ready.”).

For us this moment is one more scriptural proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One who comes for our salvation. For Mary and Joseph at this time, it is a vindication of their faith in the word of God given through his messenger, Gabriel.

For Mary especially, this must have been a bitter sweet moment. Simeon clearly was right about the destiny of her Son and therefore had seen correctly the events that would unfold in His life. It was not a pretty picture. He would encounter resistance and danger. Mary herself would be pierced, although the nature of the sword (the sword of sorrow) would not yet be known to her.

For us this story becomes one that transitions our thoughts from the Infant in the Manger to the little Prince of Peace as he faces his short and tumultuous life. Our faith in his work grows, our dedication to following him is revitalized.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

Information about the Holy Innocents
Readings for Thursday within the Octave of Christmas


Reading 1
1 Jn 1:5—2:2

We are given in this selection a foundational scripture passage upon which the Sacrament of Reconciliation rests. The logic St. John uses flows nicely; Jesus, the Christ is light. When we sin we walk in darkness. When we admit our sin, the Lord who is “expiation for our sins”, brings us back into the light. If we try to deceive ourselves saying we are not sinful, we fall and, in a sense, make Jesus’ sacrifice meaningless.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

The psalm is one of thanksgiving to the Lord for his gift of salvation – salvation from physical enemies; salvation from nature’s fury. The song thanks God who rescues us if we but reach out to him.

Mt 2:13-18

Today we are given the story of the slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem. On this their feast day we are told how Herod, in his frustration at being deceived by the magi, sends troops to kill all the male children under the age of two. We are also reminded that this event and the warning received by Joseph to take the baby, Jesus, to Egypt, were both predicted in scripture.


As I have said on many occasions, whenever I begin to think I have had an original thought or some brilliant insight I am usually reminded that someone before me has asked the same question and had a better answer. This is especially true of questions of faith. Today as a treat, I give to you, instead of my own reflection on this Feast and why such a terrible thing should happen, the non-biblical reading from the Divine Office. In addition, just so you feel the mood, I am adding Te Diem and the closing prayer. (Thank you

A sermon of St Quodvultdeus
Even before they learn to speak, they proclaim Christ

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.
Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Canticle Te Deum

Your are God, we praise you;
Your are the Lord, we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father;
All Creation worships you.

To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim sin in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.

When you became man to set us free
you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.

You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come, and be our judge.

Come then, Lord, and help your people,
brought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
To glory everlasting.

V. Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance.
R. Govern and uphold them now and always.
V. Day by day we bless you.
R. We praise your name for ever.
V. Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
R. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
V. Lord, show us your love and mercy.
R. for we put our trust in you.
V. In you, Lord, is our hope;
R. and we shall never hope in vain.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

Concluding Prayer

O God, today the Innocents proclaimed your praises not by speaking but by dying.
Grant, we ask you, that our faith may not be proclaimed by our words alone
but be also shown forth by our actions.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

[1] Taken from The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1975

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Feast of Saint John the Apostle

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist

Biographical Information about St. John the Apostle
Readings for Wednesday in the Octave of Christmas


Reading 1
1 Jn 1:1-4

The introduction of the First Letter of John describes the author as not only a believer in Jesus but also an eyewitness and contemporary of the Lord. He describes the unifying force of faith in the Father and his joy in passing on the great news of the Savior.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

The psalm of praise echoes the gladness that St. John writes about in the first reading. Who would not want an ally like the omnipotent God of justice?

Jn 20:1a and 2-8

The Gospel story of the discovery of the empty tomb describes St. John (the disciple whom Jesus loved). It is interesting that St. John arrives first but recognizes St. Peter’s primacy, waiting for him to enter the tomb first. Note also that when St. John entered the tomb, he immediately understood what happened and “believed.”


It is appropriate that we a Church remember this day St. John the Apostle. He was the youngest of the twelve. He was the author of not only the Gospel of Faith, but also two epistles and the book of Revelations. His faith community tackled the earliest and, in many ways, the hardest questions about the life and mission of Christ and set down that understanding for our posterity.

We will not try to unravel all of the messages the St. John and his followers left for us. Volumes and volumes have been written about these works by scholarly people. However, what we find in the scripture passages we are given today is something very important. The last verse of the first reading from the introduction of the First Letter of St. John gives emotion to his whole purpose.

We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.”

What do we suppose was John’s joy that is made complete in the writing of his experience and understanding of the Lord? In our Christmas season, we are still feeling the afterglow of the warmth and love we experiences in the Lord’s Nativity. We understand anew the gift God has given us in his Son, and we rejoice in the life that flows from that gift.

We hear what John says and suddenly it all makes sense. He was there. He was with the Lord as he walked and talked; as he preached and healed. He experienced the profound amazement of the man and God; the profound sadness of the Passion. He was there at the empty tomb where the source of his happiness had been laid. He saw and believed in that empty tomb and his joy soared.

What we receive from John in the short sentence above is like what we might feel when we get the very best news we can hope for; news that changes our lives – like the birth of our child, like wedding or promotion at work. When we get the very best news isn’t sharing it the first thing we want to do? Does not having others rejoice with us heighten our own joy? Does it not make our joy complete?

This is perhaps one of John’s most important contributions – his joy in the Savior. Let us share that joy.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Feast of Saint Stephen

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

Readings for the Feast of St. Stephen

Biographical Information about St. Stephen


Reading 1 Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59

We are given in our first reading the story of how St. Stephen, one of the first Deacons selected by the Apostles, was martyred. It is interesting to note that the "Saul" at whose feet the cloaks were laid is our own St. Paul who before his conversion was a talented prosecutor of Christians.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

The psalmist gives us a song of faith very appropriate for the one who is put to the test for their faith. It is a prayer for rescue and a submission of will to God's saving power.

Gospel Mt 10:17-22

Jesus gives his disciples instructions on how to deal with the persecution they are to undergo at the hands of those who do not accept him, especially those in power. His instruction is one that relies on faith that the Father, through the Holy Spirit will supply the words. There is also a presumption that there will be loss of life - here the Lord tells us that those who are steadfast in their faith cannot dies a spiritual death.


For the members of the diaconate, this day is very special. St. Stephen, the first martyr, is also one of the first deacons ordained by the Apostles to serve the Church. His feast day is considered the day upon which we celebrate the establishment of the diaconate. Since all ordained clergy in the Church (Deacons, Priests, and Bishops) are ordained to that rank and order, this is a very important day in the life of the Church as a whole.

In scripture today we are given selections that tell us of the unique connection between Jesus, the Apostles and those first seven deacons upon whom hands were imposed, dedicating them to the service of the poor and marginalized members of the faith community. We hear the story of how St. Stephen was put to death for essentially the same reason as the Lord; that is he was proclaiming the good news in a way that infuriated the Hebrew leadership. We see the irony of the participation of Saul (later St. Paul, who also died a martyr's death) in the condemnation and exicution of St. Stephen. One must wonder if St. Stephen's words did not, in some way, pave the path for St. Pauls later conversion.

We here in the psalm the prayer for strength in the face of like persecution and we are given in the Gospel words of encouragement by Jesus who tells us; "...whoever endures to the end will be saved.” We must expect the same kind, if not the same degree of resistance in our own Christian witness based upon what the Lord tells us earlier in that same sentance; "You will be hated by all because of my name."

On this great feast of the Church, let us give thanks to God for the gift of all his Saints, especially St. Stephen, martyr and Deacon. Let us also give thanks to all those throughout history who have laid down their lives for the faith and pray that we can be couragous and follow in their steps.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent


Reading 1
Mi 5:1-4a

Micah gives his prediction of the messianic king coming from this small community (Bethlehem) of David’s line.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Here the psalmist implores the Lord to send the Messiah (“Rouse your power, and come to save us.”) This will be the gift that fulfills all hopes (“Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name.”)

Reading II
Heb 10:5-10

In this passage from Hebrews we are told how Christ came, not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He says “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire”. Christ becomes the sacrifice, the sin offering that fulfills the requirement of the law for all time.

Lk 1:39-45

We hear again the Gospel we were given on Thursday this past week. The mother of John the Baptist, Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth once more says for us the words of the Rosary and we are reminded that the Mother of God made a huge sacrifice for us as well.


We have the shortest possible 4th week of Advent. It is literally hours long, depending on when we begin our celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus. In this moment we hold our breaths as our Lord and savior comes to meet us. It is in this hour especially we remember all of those Christmases past and especially those who have now gone on before us in faith to be always with our God.

We pray today especially with Elizabeth, in humility as she asks; “ And how does this happen to me?” How indeed does this happen to us that the one who saved us for all time by becoming a sin offering to the Father comes to us in this time one this day?

Perhaps our response should be like Mary’s was to Elizabeth;

Our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord
Our spirits rejoice in God our savior.

He has looked once more with favor on his lowly servants and generations to come will call us blessed.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent &
Saint John of Kanty, Priest

Biographical Information about St. John of Kanty
Readings for Saturday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Reading 1
Mal 3:1-4, 23-24

My messenger . . . before me: in
Malachi 3:23 this messenger is called Elijah. In Matthew 11:10 these words are quoted by Christ as referring to John the Baptizer, who prepared the way for the coming of the Savior;” This part of the NAB footnote shows us the link between the prediction from Malachi we hear and our Gospel below.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 25:4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.

The theme of guidance is continued in the psalm. This selection gives a clear sense of the Lord’s path announced by John the Baptist below and Malachi above.

Lk 1:57-66

We follow Mary’s Magnificat of yesterday with the story of John the Baptist’s birth, circumcision and naming. The silence imposed on Zachariah by God is broken as he confers that name upon his son. The question is asked by those who are at hand; “"What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.’” Then answer comes with the Canticle of Zachariah which this year we will not get.


With just two more days left before we celebrate that great feast of the Nativity of the Lord we hear the scripture story of the birth of John the Baptist. He is the great forerunner to the Lord, the one who paves the way, who prepares the people for the Lord’s coming. It’s almost as if the scripture is saying, there’s not turning back now.

The voice of Zachariah is restored and he praises God by the act of fulfilling what the Lord requested, that is that he name his son John. If you went to see the movie, The Nativity, which by the way, I highly recommend, you will notice that like our Advent season, the Canticle of Zachariah is omitted. Since it is the companion proclamation to the Canticle of Mary we heard yesterday I am giving it below – as Zachariah proclaims his infant son’s faith and mission:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel He has come to his people to set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior born of the house of his servant David.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham; to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our lives.

You my child shall be called the Prophet of the Most High For you will go before the Lord to prepare his way To bring your people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide Our feet unto the way of peace.

The message is for us as well.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Readings for Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Reading 1
1 Sm 1:24-28

In this passage from First Samuel we see Samuels mother, Hannah, dedicating the boy to God. The reference she made to Eli; “I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the Lord” refers to her prayer that she be allowed to bear a son for God. Her prayer answered she now dedicates him and leaves him to be trained in the faith.

Responsorial Psalm
1 Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd
R. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.

The words of the footnote in the NAB say what we feel here; “A hymn attributed to Hannah, the mother of Samuel, as her thanksgiving to God because she has borne a son despite her previous sterility. She praises God as the helper of the weak (
1 Sam 2:1-2), who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly (1 Sam 2:3-5), and who alone is the source of true strength (1 Sam 2:8-10); the hymn ends with a prayer for the king (1 Sam 2:10). This canticle has several points of resemblance with our Lady's Magnificat.

Lk 1:46-56

Following the parody from 1st Samuel, we are given the Magnificat, the beautiful Canticle of Mary. Her song of thanksgiving and humility captures the saintliness that has become synonymous with our image of Mary the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, and the Mother of the Church.


Each day when we do Evening Prayer we recite the words of the Magnificat. Over the years these words have become my words of prayer. I use them much more often than simply in evening prayer. I use them when I exercise, I use them when I am driving, I use them as I pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The say something that is in my heart and I have long ago let that emotion flow over me instead of simply thinking of the words.

Today, in the context of the coming of the Nativity of the Lord, her son, I give them back to her. She speaks out of a profound love of God and humility about her own role in his divine plan. (“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”)

Mary proclaims her understanding of God’s role in salvation and how He saves and lifts up the meek and lowly, how he levels the playing field based on faith. (“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”)

Finally, she demonstrates her own acceptance and understanding that what she is doing fulfills God’s promise, the prediction made time and again in Holy Scripture. (“He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”)

Even though Mary did not ask to serve God in this way, even though what He called her to do as part of his saving plan was difficult and dangerous for her, personally, she accepts the mantle and praises God for his great gift. In these, the final days of Advent, can we do less than echo her words of praise and thanksgiving to the one, who through the gift of His Only Son, sets us upon the path of salvation? There are just 3 days left.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent &
Saint Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Peter Canisius
Readings for Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Reading 1
Sgs 2:8-14

From the Song of Songs we are given a love song – in this instance the bride seeing her love approach. The time of their meeting draws near and she begs for the time they can be together; “Let me see you, let me hear your voice, For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely."

Zep 3:14-18a

In this passage from Zephaniah we hear the expectation of the Messiah; “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst”. In this case the effects of the Messiah on the people are the focus. (See also the
Third Sunday of Advent.)

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

This hymn of praise is an invitation to those who follow the Lord to rejoice in His grace.

Lk 1:39-45

St. Luke’s nativity story continues today with Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth. In this passage we see the first meeting between John the Baptist (the child in Elizabeth’s womb) and Jesus (now growing in Mary’s). Here also is one of the foundational scripture passages for the “Hail Mary” prayer “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. This greeting of Elizabeth’s sets the stage for the beautiful Canticle of Mary which follows immediately.


Our Advent Journey continues today as we hear the next installment of the preamble to the actual nativity of the Lord. The story continues today with Mary’s trip to visit her Cousin Elizabeth and we hear how when Mary’s voice reached Elizabeth’s ears, the child in her womb who was John the Baptist, leapt for joy. We can only imagine the feeling of awe and joy that must have come over her?

Elizabeth’s response was one very familiar to us: “blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. We couple this quote with one from the Archangel Gabriel who at Mary’s Annunciation said; “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” This first part of the “Hail Mary” prayer reminds us of Mary’s unique and blessed role on fulfilling God’s saving plan through the gift of His only Son.

Our Advent journey follows the story of the coming of Jesus, which is now very close at hand. Our own preparation must be almost complete as well. Our hearts beat more rapidly as we wait for the Morniing Star that heralds the Savior’s birth.

We now turn that joyful expectation into actions that will please our God and Savior – acts of worship and acts of love and compassion to all we meet. The peace of God’s grace must flow out of us that we might have it returned and grow.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Readings for Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Reading 1
Is 7:10-14

Ahaz is actually being hypocritical as he says; “I will not tempt the Lord.” Which explains why Isaiah reacts the way he does. Isaiah does not realize the import of his prediction. Most scholars agree he thinks he is merely speaking of the rescue of Judah. We of course see the fuller meaning of his statement which is fulfilled in the nativity account from the Gospels.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
R. Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.

The psalm selection focuses on the character of the one who worthily seeks God and the one who is worthy to come into God’s kingdom and stand before him. We are answered; “He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”

Lk 1:26-38

Here we have St. Luke’s story of the Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she will bear a son and names him Jesus. Mary confirms the title “Virgin” given by the author as she questions Gabriel saying; “How can this be, since I have not relations with a man?”

This story parallels the one we heard yesterday when the angel visited Zachariah and told him of the conception of John the Baptist. That event is referenced in this one as the Gabriel provides as proof to Mary, the pregnancy of Elizabeth.


It is “hump day” of our Advent’s “hump week”. Although, this year, with the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord falling on Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent, we have a very short fourth week. It’s time examine what we need to do to finish our preparations for the coming event.

Have we cleaned our old hurts and hates in the sacrament of Reconciliation?

Have we established a prayer regimen that includes an attitudinal reflection? (By this we are referring to that portion of our prayer that not only gives thanks to God for all He has done, but also expresses our joy in those gifts.)

Have we aligned our actions and planned actions with our prayer and our Lord’s commandments to us?

Have we adjusted our own desires to better conform ourselves to what God would want for us and from us?

I am not just throwing this out there. I was very moved by the psalm this morning. Look at what it says. First it asks the rhetorical questions; “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? or who may stand in his holy place?” Then in the very next strophe we are given the answer; “He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” That’s were the questions above came from.

We know that we cannot, in this life, become worthy to stand in the physical presence of the Lord, but we can make a real effort to so transform our lives that we minimize our period of purification following this life so we can stand sinless before Him. That is our object this Advent season, and we don’t have much time left, 5 more days.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Readings for Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Reading 1
Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a

This story from Judges appears to parallel the Christ story in a number of ways. First in the circumstances of the Israelites, who are under the rule of a foreign power, this time the Philistines. Next we are given divine intervention in the conception of a person who could be called a savior of the people, although not in the same terms of deity as Jesus. Sampson in a more conventional way was dedicated from the womb to be God’s servant and under the ancient rite was placed under the nazirite vow, which obliged him to abstain from drinking wine or having his hair cut; cf
Numbers 6:2-8.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!

The focus of this psalm on the dedication of the author to God from birth follows the theme established above in Judges. Here we are told of the faithfulness of one so dedicated.

Lk 1:5-25

The Gospel from St. Luke today gives us the story of Zechariah receiving the news that he is to have a son with his wife Elizabeth. It is clear that this story bears much in common with the story we heard in Judges about the conception of Sampson. Elizabeth was also barren; both conceptions were announced by angles, although in John’s case the angle was one of the three named archangels, Gabriel. Both children were dedicated to God from the womb but John was given a specific task and labeled from the womb as a great prophet; “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah.”

In the final verses, Elizabeth, we are told goes into seclusion with praise to God fro having given her the gift of her child. This statement reflects the societal view that women who could not have children were being punished by God and therefore had some hidden sin; “…he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”


Sometimes the fingerprints of God are hard to distinguish and at other times they shine with unmistakable brilliance. In scripture today we are shown two major points in history where God reached down and, using the flesh, gave the world evidence of his love. In today’s examples more is revealed, we are given an M.O. or modus operandi.

It seems that when God wants to really get involved in saving his people he acts very strategically. He does not take a hand in real-time. Rather he reaches down to the most improbable people and uses their issue as tools to create amazing and wondrous events. We see it coming in the Old Testament and it culminates in the most spectacular event in all eternity with the birth of Jesus, God’s Only Begotten Son.

Today we see clearly the similarities between these touch points and just as clearly the differences come into stark relief. In the case of first Sampson and then John the Baptist the parents of these two salvific persons were told that they would bare children who would be dedicated to God from “the womb”. In the case of Jesus however, Mary was a young virgin who had never known man and it was through the Holy Spirit she conceived, not through divine pronouncement of a human act.

In the cases of both Sampson and John the Baptist (although John’s mission was much more clearly established by God), both men accomplished great things because they were supported by God. In Jesus case – his self predicted path, while going in scope and in depth beyond anything seen before, seems almost anti-climatic, an expected outcome in spite of its heroic proportions. Perhaps it is because of his quiet passion and humility that we feel his great power. There was nothing about him that would have otherwise called our attention to him (see Isaiah).

As we fly through this last week before we celebrate the Lord’s Nativity we are given another insight into the God who saves us. We can take that additional piece of understanding and bolster the faith that is the foundation of our strength and brace ourselves for the wondrous event that is fast approaching.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Readings for Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Reading 1
Jer 23:5-8

In this passage the Prophet Jeremiah predicts the coming of the Messiah who will rule with justice. The last two verses of this passage were probably written during the exile, looking forward to the return to the land. This return had taken place at the time of Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Our psalm today is a prayer that the civil leader may rule with the justice of God. In doing so compassion will be shown to the poor and wealth of the kingdom will be shared with the poor. In the final strophe we conclude with praise for a God who while unseen, makes his presence known through his creation.

Mt 1:18-25

The beginning of St. Matthew’s story of the nativity of Jesus is the passage we are given today. Specifically we see Joseph being told by the angel that he should bring Mary into his home as wife and the paternity of the child is the Holy Spirit. He is also told the name the child Emmanuel. The story ends with Joseph accepting the role and the command of the angel.


The rose candle has been lit and we rejoice, knowing we are in the final week of preparation for the Nativity of the Lord – his birthday celebration. We are given scripture that predicts his first coming and a piece of the actual tale as provided by St. Matthew.

The story of Joseph’s call is instructive (That’s what it was, an angel coming and calling him to foster the child of the Holy Spirit). We know that historically Joseph was, at the time of Mary’s conception and obvious pregnancy, restricted from her. They were still living apart and we also know from other places in scripture that she had been away to see her cousin, Elizabeth. Joseph must have thought she was pregnant with another man’s child. Yet he listened to his dream – it must have been very vivid – and accepted that it was God’s voice and will that he was hearing.

He went further accepting the mother as his wife and the child as his own heir, giving him a name and fulfilling his destiny and God’s will. Knowing, as we do, that God did not create a race of slaves, we can appreciate that Joseph made this choice out of faith and his own free will. That makes him a hero of our Advent story, right up there with John the Baptist and Mary.

Today we continue to make those final preparations for the Child to come and the celebration that accompanies the Christ Event. Let us today follow Joseph’s example and remember especially to listen carefully for the voice of God as he calls us. Know that the call can come in many forms and from many sources. Part of our preparation is to sharpen our hearing so when the Lord calls, we will hear and like Joseph accept that which the Lord God places before us.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent

Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent


Reading 1 Zep 3:14-18a

The Prophet Zephaniah begins this passage with an exaltation to praise to God. His invitation sounds in the present tense but then we hear; “On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem…” which places the event, the rejoicing over the Lord God being in their midst, in the future. In effect this is a prediction of events to come. Zephaniah also includes the effects of God’s presence as he says; “a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love”.

Responsorial Psalm Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

This hymn of praise is a profession of faith; “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.” It also does something interesting in that it challenges those who profess that faith to proclaim it in the world; “…among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name.”

Reading II Phil 4:4-7

St. Paul continues the theme of celebration of the Lord’s presences. The famous; Rejoice in the Lord always” statement is followed by a description of what occurs when we do this; “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Basically, when we are aware that God in Christ is with us, his peace rests upon us and nothing can harm us.

Gospel Lk 3:10-18

We are given in this passage from the Gospel of Luke a unique insight into the similarities of the minds of Jesus and John the Baptist. In the first few verses of the passage, various members of the society are asking John what they should do (in response to John’s call for repentance). John tells the first group to share what they have with those who have less (sound familiar? “Love one another”). This general response is followed by more specific instructions for different groups; Tax Collectors and Soldiers.

The second part of this selection begins with the recognition of what we said above – John’s view on our response to God is very similar to Jesus’. The people begin to wonder if he might be the Messiah to which John responds; “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” The air of expectation is, however, built up in the people with John’s enthusiastic proclamation of the good news.


If our preparation for the coming of the Nativity of the Lord has been progressing as if it were a real child coming into our midst, today’s scripture tells us we should put balloons and streamers in the space we create in our hearts. First in Zephaniah and again in the Psalm and in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians we are told we should be celebrating this coming event that will change the world for all time.

The very air grows thick with expectation now as we hear (or imagine) John the Baptist’s booming voice calling out to us across two thousand years; “I am no the Messiah, if you think I’m holy and wise, wait, there is one coming after me who will blow your mind.” We rejoice in our expectation – when good things come it’s always that way. Waiting in expectation for the best things is always a great part of the experience.

Think about your younger years. When you were told by your parents you were going to do something very special, perhaps go on a special vacation or perhaps get a special possession like a boat or a camper, do you remember the giddy expectation (my children would say they tickled inside). Perhaps most appropriately we remember the night before Christmas as children when we could not get to sleep, knowing that Santa Claus would soon arrive and the presents would be there, under the tree.

What is it we expect now? Is it not a celebration of the Nativity of the Lord – the greatest gift we have ever and will ever receive? Can we put away the panic of the secularization of this holiday and embrace the warmth of that space we create in our hearts and rejoice in it? It is why we take a month to prepare ourselves in the Advent Season, to rekindle the childlike flames of expectation and ready ourselves for the coming of the Prince of Peace.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Readings for Saturday of the 2nd Week of Advent


Reading 1
Sir 48:1-4, 9-11

This passage from Sirach gives praise to the Prophet Elijah who clearly chastised the Hebrew people trying to bring them back to the faith. A predecessor of John the Baptist and of Jesus, he is one of the great Prophets whose miracles attempted to provide proofs that God was with him and to bring the people back.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

The psalmist prays for God’s intervention and help and in return promises faithfulness.

Mt 17:9a, 10-13

In this important passage, Jesus is telling the disciples that the prophecy that before the Messiah comes, Elijah must return to prepare the Hebrews is fulfilled by John the Baptist – the new Elijah (“Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.). The way the passage ends can be confusing – Jesus predicts his passion and it is then that the disciples understand that John, fulfilling the role of Elijah prepares the way for the Messiah – Christ.


Our scripture today speaks pointedly teaches us that the predictions of the Prophets were fulfilled, in detail, by Jesus who came for that purpose. For the skeptic who believes that God has demonstrated his presence to the Hebrews, this proof should be sufficient to bring them to faith in Christ as the Messiah. If the skeptic does not believe the signs and predictions – then God’s outstretched had must suffice.

Faith is a funny thing. It is given, we are told, as a gift from the one who created all things, including ourselves. It (faith) begins as a flame on the Easter Candle at our Baptism. It is small, that flame, on a very big candle. It is, by proxy, given to the parents of the child, to be protected and nourished. If they are successful in nurturing it with their example and their teaching, the child (even though we may not think our attempts to raise the child in the faith have worked) has that faith, belief, and trust grow so it can stand against the mature temptation of the world we live in.

Faith is an organic and dynamic characteristic of each person. It grows and shrinks according to how we feed it and nourish it. It can dominate our lives and actions if we allow it to do so and it can be suppressed, shoved so far down our conscience cannot remember it. While there may be external forces at work to push us in one direction or another, in almost all cases, that choice is ours. We choose to open our hearts, to become vulnerable to the compassionate impulses driven by faith in a God of mercy and justice. We can choose to place an armored shield around ourselves denying those impulses and embracing hedonism and self importance.

It is those choices of faith that we now examine in this time of expectation. We seek the noble impulses that faith and God push at us and we pray that we discern those baser feelings that can lead us away from the Lord who now comes fulfilling once more the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. Let us do so with all our hearts.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Readings for Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent


Reading 1 Is 48:17-19

Isaiah proposes the words of a holy covenant – If you follow the commandments of God, he will give you prosperity, justification or forgiveness, and your line of decedents will be many and always have God’s help.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.

This psalm fits with the Isaiah reading above like an overlapped formula of covenant. Blessed is the man who “delights in the Law day and night” but; “the way of the wicked vanishes.”

Gospel Mt 11:16-19

The Gospel from St. Matthew plays in parallel to the first reading from Isaiah and Psalm 1. Jesus turns it around comparing those he has uncounted with the wicked in the psalm because they do not follow the prophet – John the Baptist (“…John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.”) Nor do he hear the words of the Messiah (“The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’) Then he implies the truth will come out based upon what follows from John the Baptist and Jesus; (“But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”)


If we jump up to the twenty thousand foot level and look at our scripture for today in the context of our season, we hear a single voice calling out to us saying; “Live by God’s Commandments and your faith will earn you salvation.” We hear it from the Prophet Isaiah, we hear it again in the Psalm, and finally in the Gospel we hear the Lord bemoaning the fact that people of his day do not understand that John the Baptist is a prophet as well as a herald and that he, himself, is the Messiah.

When we hear that kind of general instruction, let’s face it, we are not given a specific action in this guidance, how do we respond? Do we take this broad statement like we do with general instructions we would get from our parents; “Be good today.” That is basically what was being said, wasn’t it?

As children getting the instruction “Be good today”, we would almost always answer, “I will.” There was intent in those words at the time they were spoken, but how often did our response to the instruction die almost as quickly as the echo of our answer?

We are now hearing this same call as children of God. We were adopted by him in Christ, and called to do our Father’s will. Today he says to us – be good, follow my commandments to you and I will be with you. The trick here is to know what those commandments are just like as children we knew what kind of behavior our parents expected when they told us to be good.

For us, we start with the Ten Commandments; (Ex 20; 2-17)

"I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.

"Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

"Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you.

"You shall not kill.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."

Then we apply the Lord’s Great Commandment; (MK 12; 29-31)

"The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'
The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Once we have put these two together we are in pretty good shape with the Lord. They are the big poster we should decorate the place we are preparing for the Lord this Advent Season. Living by them will be the hooks that hold them in place.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross,
priest and doctor of the Church

Biographical Information about St. John of the Cross
Readings for Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent


Reading 1 Is 41:13-20

Isaiah uses the harvest image to proclaim the victory of the Lord over those who oppose him. He once again reminds us that the Lord cares for the poor and those without hope and assures us that all that is and will be is created by God.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.

This song of praise and thanksgiving looks forward to the coming of the kingdom of God. It is God, says the psalmist, who rules all things for all time.

Gospel Mt 11:11-15

We met John the Baptist briefly earlier this Advent season. Now we hear Jesus proclaiming his greatness – a greatness that comes from John’s role of proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and extolling the people to repentance and acceptance of God’s rule in their lives.


Setting this Gospel in context, John the Baptist has just written to Jesus from prison asking if he is the one “who is to come” or should we look for another. In response Jesus sent back the message by John’s disciples to tell him what they have seen of the miracles Jesus has worked; the blind see, the lame walk. Using the descriptive words of the prophets he is confirming John’s belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

That is where our Gospel passage begins – and Jesus says; among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist. We must ask ourselves what makes John so special? He is a mystic; he wears funny cloths and eats funny stuff. He cries out to the people to repent and return to right paths. It is John’s acceptance of his role as predecessor of the Lord that makes him great.

In that same mold, we as Church celebrate today another great soul in St. John of the Cross. Time does not permit me to chronicle his life and works. Let us say he is held up as one of the Doctors of the Church which means he gave us such incredible insight into our understanding of our faith that he is given that special title.

Since we are working diligently to make a straight path in our hearts for the Lord, today let us contemplate one short thought left for us by St. John of the Cross on this, his feast day;

The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.”

As we accept the yoke of the Lord this advent season and do our very best to follow the Lord’s call to us, let’s remember these words of St. John. The manner in which we perform our deeds must be one of humility - giving of ourselves without thought of recognition or honor except from God who is the only one we seek to please. We perform our deeds our of compassion and love – not condescension or in pride. We perform our deeds for God’s glory and purpose, not our own. It is in these ways we make that path for the Lord whose Nativity we wait for with such expectation.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

Biographical Information about St. Lucy
Readings for Wednesday


Reading 1 Is 40:25-31

In this passage from Isaiah, the Prophet is chastising the faithful for loosing hope (“Why, O Jacob, do you say, and declare, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?”) He follows this with a statement of faith indicating the strength gained in faith in God and the futility of effort without that faith.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

This hymn of praise focuses on God’s power and will to heal all ills and to support us in times of trouble. It is through his own will that he does this.

Gospel Mt 11:28-30

The heart piercing tenderness of Jesus invitation is best expressed in these two verses from Matthew’s Gospel. The Lord invites us to be placed under the authority of his word (Take my yoke…) and there we will find rest.


Today I would like to move away from my serial posts on the preparation for Advent for a bit to think out loud about the wonders of God’s love for us and how he acts in our lives. This morning I received word that my brother in Christ, Bill Cavnar, for whom we have been praying these many months as he has been fighting against multiple myeloma (bone cancer), that he is in what doctors call a very good partial remission (VGPR). Without going into detail that basically means while he is not completely out to the woods, he at least can see the edge of the tree line.

On top of his great news comes the scripture we have today. In Isaiah and the Psalm we are enjoined to remember that God has the power to give strength to the weak and restore health to those who suffer. In the Gospel we are once more invited to place ourselves under Jesus’ yoke and find peace.

In our charismatic heart we can rejoice at Bill’s great news and say, as the Lord has said many times; “your faith has healed you.” And we of faith would be right to say so for indeed the Lord is the ultimate power and he seeks those who seek him.

On a very pragmatic level, our analytical heart says Bill is in this state of remission because he had some of the very best medical people working on him. He calls them out by name as the Bone Marrow Transplant Team and the Multiple Myeloma Team who have applied all the arts that modern medicine has to offer to his situation. We rejoice in their skill because what they have done is truly remarkable.

Reconciling these two feelings brings us to the heart of our faith and our Church’s teaching. We are justified through faith and actions. This dogmatic truth was beautify summarized by St. Ignatius who said; we must pray as if it is all up to God and work as if it is all up to us.

Today we thank God for his gift of the saints, especially St. Lucy whose strength of faith would not allow the Romans to defile her in life. We give special thanks for the healing hands of those God has placed in Bill’s life and pledge our continued prayers for his ongoing recovery (probably another acronym). May we always remember that while our faith in God will sustain us, we must also work diligently to help him with our own effort. As Bill says – we are under His mercy.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Information about Our Lady of Guadalupe
Readings for Tuesday


Reading 1 Zec 2:14-17

This first selection from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah once more predicts the coming of the Messiah. It provides a rather unique glimpse at the messianic expectation – He comes to unify and security to the faithful. This passage also demonstrates the “true man, true God” essence of the Lord; “Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.”

Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

This alternate reading would be selected if the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was taking precedence over the Advent Season readings. Here we are given the passage from John’s Book of Revelations that provides a symbol of Mary who is Queen of Heaven. In the passage the eschatological symbolism shows Mary giving birth to her son, Jesus. It also depicts Satan who, knowing the nature of the Lord, puts forces in motion to destroy the child.

Responsorial Psalm Judith 13:18bcde, 19
R. You are the highest honor of our race.

This short hymn of praise from Judith is predictive of the blessed role Mary will play in human salvation.

Gospel Lk 1:26-38

The footnote from the New American Bible on this particular passage gives us a lot to think about: “The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus is parallel to the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John. In both the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision (Luke 1:11-12, 26-29) and then told by the angel not to fear (Luke 1:13, 30). After the announcement is made (Luke 1:14-17, 31-33) the parent objects (Luke 1:18, 34) and a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36). The particular focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on his identity as Son of David (Luke 1:32-33) and Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35).”

On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the reaction of Mary to this announcement is particularly important in that she gives her humble consent, know the potential consequences of her act include her own death.


Today as we continue our Advent journey we remember especially the Mother of Jesus, Mary most holy. She has been most active as the Mother of the Church. Her appearance to Juan Diego and the subsequent miraculous events gave focus to the faith in the Americas and provides even more proof of God’s love for all peoples of all races and creeds.

Within the context of the Advent Season, we are reminded that the role she played in accepting the call to bear the Lord was critical to the whole human race. She was called as we hear in the Gospel today. She accepted not only the will of God but is first in showing us what our faith in the Savior must look like. As we continue to do our interior remodeling, let’s place the image of Mary, our Lady of Guadalupe on the walls of the baby’s room in our hearts. He has special love for his Mother. We place it there with this prayer;

To Our Lady Dark Yet Fair

O hail, thou Virgen de Guadalupe! Unfailing refuge, our solace in days of
grief, Radiant Queen so kind, our Mother of sweet relief ¡Viva la Virgen de

Lovely Maid, fairest star above the sea! Advocate e'er
gracious of clemency and love, Deign to listen to our pleas, O mother above
¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

Yea, O Lady of Guadalupe; O meek and
gentlest One, take heed to our groaning; For oft we stumble and raise to thee
our moaning ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

Golden gate of heav'n,
thou radiant portal; Unstained by sin, blissful queen of heav'n and earth, Aid
me that I may love Him whom you did give birth ¡Viva la Virgen de

Daughter of God, thou queen of royalty, Ave Maria! With
joyful hearts we hail thee! Look on us so kindly, O Blessed Virgin Mary! ¡Viva
la Virgen de Guadalupe!

Unfailing refuge and sweetest Mother; Pearl
of grace so fair, fail not thine children to care, E'er our sweetest Advocate
who did God once bear ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

-- Jeong-Bo Shim

Jeong-Bo is a thirteen year old boy who lives with his family in Corvallis, Oregon. He is home-schooled and enjoys writing poetry. Last year, he was the state winner of the Junior Catholic Daughters of America poetry contest. He also plays the violin and has been invited to play a solo meditation at the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Last year he won second place in the MTNA national competition. He enjoys playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and swimming as well as gardening. He received help on the first verse from Katheryn Atkinson of Tehachipi, California.