Monday, December 31, 2007

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas


Commemoration of Saint Silvester I, Pope

Biographical Information about St. Silverter[1]

Readings for the Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 John 2:18-21

After telling his community that they were armed by their knowledge of Christ against evil, the Apostle now tells them that he hour is near. Christ has died and is risen and the second coming must be approaching. He warns them to be alert and watch out for the antichrist (This designation occurs only in the writings of St. John. In Matthew and Mark they are called false messiahs, in St. Paul’s letters the same person(s) is designated “lawless one”.) This group of “Antichrists” mentioned by the Biblical Authors seems to indicate a group of persons who were teaching falsely about Jesus.

St. John identifies these antichrists as individuals who schismatically leave the faith community, holding false premises. He then tells those who are faithful to be steadfast because they are anointed in the truth.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 11-12, 13
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

This song of praise exhorts the people to praise the Lord for his wondrous works of creation. The reason for this exhortation is that God will come to rule the earth with his justice. In this passage we see the forerunner of the understanding of the New Jerusalem – the Heavenly Kingdom.

Gospel John 1:1-18

The introduction of St. John’s Gospel is also used in the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord (Cycle A). It first provides the description of the relationship of God and Jesus who is the Logos – or word of God. The Word is light to the world and all things are subordinate to the Word because they were created by and through the Word.

St. John then introduces himself as one who came to testify to the light (now equivocated above with the Word). His message, like that of Jesus was not accepted by the very people created by the Lord. He goes on to say that those who accept Christ are adopted by God.

St. John then makes his own profession as he speaks of the incarnation of the eternal as “the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” His divinity is once more established as he says “…we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son”. This was the message St. John tells us he was sent to bring. He then reestablishes himself as messenger and servant of the one who sent him, Jesus. He says that while Moses brought the Law, Christ came and revealed God himself.

Reflection:

It seems somewhat ironic that at this time as we bask in the glow of the birth of the Prince of Peace that we are reminded that there are those who would take the truth of his coming and revealing the Father to us and twist it for their own purposes.

We have seen it time and again in our own age, yet here we find that it has been happening since the very beginning. It was this very issue that the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now
Pope Benedict XVI) was addressing during St. John Paul the Great’s papacy when he addressed those Christian faith communities not in union with the Holy See. He indicated that while each of these “denominations” had a part of the truth about our Lord, the ultimate and complete truth was passed down through Apostolic Succession and resides with the Chair of Peter.

We see the in-roads the “Evangelical” churches have made in recent years and while we do not wish to seem exclusive, we are saddened by those who leave the repository of truth for communities that only make the “feel better about their worship”. While there have been abuses of power and authority in the Catholic Church, there is also accountability within it. To a large degree it is self policing of such abuses. The major problem with the so called “independent” Christian communities is there is no such hierarchical governance to insure the truth is consistently transmitted. The possibility of the “False Messiahs” or “False Teachers” has come from these ranks time and again. (e.g. the Jonesville Massacre, the Branch Davidians from Waco) The list goes on. We must take St. John’s words to heart and both prepare ourselves spiritually for the promise to come and be wary of teachers who sound too good to be true, they probably are.

As for us, we cling to the Church and Christ made present in the Eucharist. In this holy season, let us continue to proclaim the joy of our Savior, born of Joseph and Mary and his reign to come.

Pax

[1] The picture used today is “Sylvester I and Constantine” artist and date UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph


Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Sirach 3:2-6, 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).

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

Psalm 128 is a song of thanksgiving. It begins here 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.

Reading II Colossians 3:12-21
Or Shorter Form Colossians 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.

Gospel Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

The story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt is provided in Matthew’s Gospel. Angelic messengers to keep Jesus from harm guide Joseph, the father of Jesus. (The verses 16-18 which are omitted in this reading tell the story of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem whose feast we celebrated on December 28.) In addition to accomplishing the task of saving Jesus from Herod, the flight to Egypt and subsequent return are reminiscent of Moses’ escape and the subsequent Exodus event.

The account also mentions that all that happens is in accordance with what has been prophetically revealed. The first reference, indicating that the Messiah was to be called out of Egypt is a reference to
Hosea 11:1. The second reference is less clear as there is no specific Old Testament biblical reference to Nazareth. It is possible a confusion with the term “neser”. Old Testament texts are Isaiah 11:1 where the Davidic king of the future is called "a bud" (neser) that shall blossom from the roots of Jesse, and Judges 13:5, 7 where Samson, the future deliverer of Israel from the Philistines, is called one who shall be consecrated (a nazir) to God.

Reflection:

We continue to celebrate the early events in the life of Jesus during the Christmas season. Today the tranquility of the birth of the Lord and the accompanying rejoicing is shattered in a dream. A messenger from God visits Joseph again in his dream. This time the message is one of alarm. He is told that King Herod wishes to kill his ward and son. Like the Palestinians from the time of Moses, he was instructed to flee to Egypt until the danger passed.

We can only imagine the alarm this caused with Mary, the mother of Jesus. There can be no doubt, however, that this devout family listened to the Lord’s instructions and immediately left the area. We also know the threat was real. Shortly after the Holy Family left Bethlehem, Herod’s troops descended upon the town and killed every male baby between birth and two years old. Hosea the prophet had heard the cry of that horrible deed hundreds of years before. Infants, who had yet to utter a word, offered their life’s blood for the savior of the world.

Of the years Joseph and the Holy Family spent in Egypt while waiting for word from the angel to return, nothing is known. There are tales in the Apocryphal Gospels about these early years of Jesus’ life but nothing authoritative. What we can surmise is these were years were a time of great peace for Mary, Joseph and their young son. Their devotion to God was intense, since only one who listens carefully to God may hear with clarity their call to holiness and walk in His peace. Only one who intensely loved the Father would be chosen to protect and nurture the most precious gift ever given. Only one who walked with God daily would hear the messenger who told them it was safe to return.

We rejoice today with the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and Jesus who is the Christ. We rejoice for their years of peace and love, safe in Egypt. We thank God for calling them back to Nazareth so the young Jesus would grow to manhood and fulfill the rest of his prophesied mission to bring us salvation. Finally we look to the perfect love expressed within the Holy Family and pray that our families may work toward that same unity.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Holy Family” by Claudio Coello, ~1685

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas


Commemoration of Saint Thomas a Becket, Bishop, Martyr

Biographical Information about St. Thomas a Becket[1]

Readings for the Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 John 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 Psalm 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.

Gospel Luke 2:22-35

St. Luke’s account of Jesus being presented at the Temple provides a unique insight into the Holy Family. They are faithful observes of the Law of Moses.

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)”.

Reflection:

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.

Pax
[1] The picture used is “The Murder of Thomas a Becket”, artist and date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Friday, December 28, 2007

Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs


Additional Information about the Holy Innocents, Martyrs[1]

Readings for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 John 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 Psalm 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.

Gospel Matthew 2:13-18

St. Matthew provides 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.

Reflection:

As we have said on many occasions, whenever we begin to think we have had an original thought or some brilliant insight we are usually reminded that someone before us has asked the same question and had a better answer. This is especially true of questions of faith. Today as a treat, we offer to you, instead of a reflection by the deacon, 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, we have added Te Diem and the closing prayer. (Thank you
Universalis)

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

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 sing 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.

Amen

[1] The picture today is “Massacre of the Innocents” by Guido Reni, 1611
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist


Biographical Information about St. John the Apostle[1]

Readings for the Feast of St. John the Apostle[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 John 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 Psalm 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?

Gospel John 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.”

Homily:

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

It is appropriate that we, as Church, remember on St. John the Apostle this day. 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.

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 the vows at a 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, especially this Christmas season. The Savior has come!

Pax

[1] The picture used today is “St. John the Evangelist on Patmos” by Hieronymus Bosch, 1504-05
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Feast of Saint Stephen


First Martyr

Biographical Information about St. Stephen[1]

Readings for the Feast of St. Stephen[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

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 Psalm 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 Matthew 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 die a spiritual death.

Reflection:

Each year, on the day following Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen. The Gospel of St. John from Christmas Mass during the day tells us that the Word incarnate will be rejected by those who are His own (
John 1:10). In today’s Gospel, the Lord cautions his followers that they too will face rejection, persecution, and possibly death. With the glow of the Morning Star that illuminated the manger still warming our hearts we are given a stern reminder of what discipleship means.

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 execution of St. Stephen. One must wonder if St. Stephen's words did not, in some way, pave the path for St. Paul’s 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 sentence; "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 courageous and follow in their steps.

Pax


[1] The picture today is “The Stoning of St. Stephen” by Pietro Da Cortona, 1660
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Nativity of the Lord


Christmas
Mass During the Day

Readings for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Isaiah 52:7-10

The Prophet’s original intent was to proclaim the joy of the return from the Babylonian exile. He sees the event as salvation for the Hebrew people, God leads them back. From a greater distance and depth of understanding we see him announcing the coming of the Messiah and the salvation that comes to the new Jerusalem through him.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6[3]
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Psalm 98 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. We see in this selection how God is praised for the strength he lends his people and the salvation he brings to those who are faithful. The psalm rejoices in God’s salvation. The Lord has revealed his compassion toward the people and they sing his praises in response. As the Hebrews saw this as salvation for the people of Israel from its enemies, we see the deeper expression of God’s love as he sent his Son for salvation and justice for the whole world.”

Reading II Hebrews 1:1-6

The note from the NAB does a nice job of setting this passage within the context of the Solemnity of the Nativity: “The letter opens with an introduction consisting of a reflection on the climax of God's revelation to the human race in his Son. The divine communication was initiated and maintained during Old Testament times in fragmentary and varied ways through the prophets (
Hebrews 1:1), including Abraham, Moses, and all through whom God spoke. But now in these last days (Hebrews 1:2) the final age, God's revelation of his saving purpose is achieved through a son, i.e., one who is Son, whose role is redeemer and mediator of creation. He was made heir of all things through his death and exaltation to glory, yet he existed before he appeared as man; through him God created the universe. Hebrews 1:3-4, which may be based upon a liturgical hymn, assimilate the Son to the personified Wisdom of the Old Testament as refulgence of God's glory and imprint of his being (Hebrews 1:3; cf Wisdom 7:26).”

Gospel John 1:1-18

The introduction of St. John’s Gospel first provides the description of the relationship of God and Jesus who is the Logos – or word of God. The Word is light to the world and all things are subordinate to the Word because they were created by and through the Word.

St. John then introduces himself as one who came to testify to the light (now equivocated above with the Word). His message, like that of Jesus was not accepted by the very people created by the Lord. He goes on to say that those who accept Christ are adopted by God.

St. John then makes his own profession as he speaks of the incarnation of the eternal as “the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” His divinity is once more established as he says “…we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son”. This was the message St. John tells us he was sent to bring. He then reestablishes himself as messenger and servant of the one who sent him, Jesus. He says that while Moses brought the Law, Christ came and revealed God himself.

or
John1:1-5, 9-14

In this shorter form of the Gospel, the first introduction and second introductions of the Gospel author is omitted “the one who came to testify to the light. He reiterates his role as messenger in the John 1:15 as he says “This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'" Omitting these references to St. John, focuses the scripture more specifically on the incarnation of Christ as the “Word mad flesh.”

Reflection:

Profound awe tempers our enthusiasm as our joy at the incarnation of the Word is announced by St. John’s Gospel today. His is not the story of the baby Jesus born in the manger in Bethlehem. St. John does not mention the difficult journey from Nazareth nor the crowded conditions that forced them to stay in a cave. He does not recall the angel choirs singing to the shepherds nor the kings from the east following the morning star that lit the night sky under which the baby was laid.

This day we are reminded that he who took on flesh and became man for our salvation is eternal. Before he came to the virgin’s womb was the Word. When God created all that is, was the Word. It was through the Word that we have life and light because the Word is light.

God took the light of creation and made it man so that we might see the light and understand the love of God who was both eternal and mortal in the form of Jesus. It is this amazing gift we celebrate today as we ponder the love of one so great he is beyond our imagining.

We are reminded too that when the light came into the world it was rejected by those who love the darkness. The Word made flesh was not to be adored but brought light none the less. His short journey was from the manger to the cross and while we celebrate one on this day, we remember the other.

Today, whether we recall the manger in Bethlehem or the Logos, the Word that brought light into the world, we thank the Father who through his Son’s sacrifice has adopted us and provided us with salvation through the forgiveness of our sins. We celebrate the great love we receive in this gift and pass that love on to all we meet so that we too become light in dark places.

Merry Christmas indeed, in the Word comes our joy and the peace of him who was made flesh for our salvation.

Pax


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Nativity” by Petrus Christus, 1452
[3] Compendium from the Deacon’s Bench

Monday, December 24, 2007

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent


Mass in the Morning

Readings for Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

Within the historical books of the Old Testament (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Maccabees), this passage is considered to have the most theological significance. Nathan’s Oracle – the establishment of the dynasty of King David marks the beginning of the understanding of royal messianism, our first hint of the Messiah to come.

In this passage, Nathan is told to tell David that, while he would not build the Temple, his son (Solomon) would and that his (David’s) line would continue; “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Though Psalm 89 is a lament, this first section is prophetic and reiterates the Davidic Dynasty. The intended support for the Samuel reading above is clear.

Gospel Luke 1:67-79

St. John the Baptist had been born to Elizabeth and the seal the Lord had placed on the mouth of his father Zechariah had been lifted when he had named his son in accordance with the wishes of God. We are given the Canticle of Zechariah, the father’s song to his son, praising God and predicting the role his son would fulfill in God’s plan as herald of the Messiah’s arrival. The whole Church sings this song each morning as part of the Morning Prayer of the Divine Office.

Reflection:

The preparation for the Advent of our Lord is nearly complete. With the exception of a few preparations and last minute details, we take a moment to recall God’s plan and make ourselves ready to accept the gift long expected. For those of us who pray the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Canticle of Zechariah is one familiar to us. Each morning we recall the words of one smitten by God and released to sing of a promise fulfilled.

We can only guess at the mind of Zechariah as he sings his prophetic song. His first words are in praise of God the Father whose promise is fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah. We see in his expectation how easy it would be to get the wrong idea about the sort of entrance this savior, predicted from the time of Abraham, would make. The Savior was to be born from the house of Kings – of King David’s line, King David who was a mighty king and fierce warrior securing the land through force of arms with God the Father sitting at his shoulder scattering Israel’s foes like match wood.

We see the truth of his great oracle in Jesus, but we also see how Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, to whom he now sings, could have misunderstood and later, while he was in Herod’s prison, have sent his own disciples to ask the Lord if he was the one expected or if they should look for another. The song, however, sees the promise of God fulfilled, the promise made to all mankind throughout the history of that covenant.

We can almost see the eyes of Zechariah turn from their heavenward gaze to look at the infant in his arms. We hear his voice change from one of awe and praise to one of tenderness as he tells his son “You, my child, shall be the prophet of the Most High”. We wonder how much God has shown this priest of the Temple. Does he know this baby he now holds will shake the foundations of the Temple he serves? Does he know that by preparing the way for the Savior to come, he exposes the weakness of those in power to submit to God’s own Son?

Clearly, Zechariah sees the love of God embodied in the coming Savior of the world. He tells his son “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 into the way of peace.” All that the Father hopes for us is echoed there, his love, his compassion, his care for those who are lost, it is all there and in it we hear the parent’s prayer for their children.

The one who Zechariah sang about is almost at our doorstep and we pause and hope our hearts are prepared to accept the gift of a loving Father who will “…guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Pax


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Infant Christ Offering Water to St. John” by Bartolom√© Esteban Murillo, 1675-80

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Advent


Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Isaiah 7:10-14

Jerusalem is being attacked by two neighboring kings when Isaiah is commanded by God to go and speak to the Jewish King Ahaz cautioning him to have faith that God will protect Jerusalem. Ahaz is hypocritical in both his faith and his response which is interpreted as cynical when he says “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!”

Isaiah follows with his prophetic vision explained well in the footnote from the NAB: “The sign proposed by Isaiah was concerned with the preservation of Judah in the midst of distress (cf
Isaiah 7:15, 17), but more especially with the fulfillment of God's earlier promise to David (2 Sam 7:12-16) in the coming of Immanuel (meaning, "With us is God") as the ideal king (cf Isaiah 9:5-6; 11:1-5). The Church has always followed St. Matthew in seeing the transcendent fulfillment of this verse in Christ and his Virgin Mother.”

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

Psalm 24 is a processional song. It recalls that God is the great creator and he calls his people to be faithful. It asks the question who can come into his presence and answers only those who are sinless (completely reconciled to God). They who achieve that beatified state will receive the reward of eternal life from the savior. It 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.”

Reading II Romans 1:1-7

St. Paul introduces himself to the Christian churches in Rome with this opening message from his letter. In typical fashion, the introduction includes a statement of purpose (apostolate of the Gospel of Christ) and a profession of faith.

Gospel Matthew 1:18-24

Following the genealogy, the short story of Mary’s virginal conception through the Holy Spirit and how God intervened to insure that Joseph also heard his call. This section of the Nativity Narrative from St. Matthew’s Gospel tells the story of Joseph’s dilemma. He is required by Mosaic Law to file a petition of divorce in front of witnesses. He has resigned himself to this course of action when he has a dream in which an angel came to him and told him of the origins of the child Mary bore. For his part, Joseph accepted the message and did as the Lord commanded.

Reflection:

We have been given all of these scriptural readings in our liturgy within the past twelve months. Then have occurred at different times and with different significance but each of the readings have been presented, some multiple times (The psalm and St. Matthew’s Gospel). They come together today to tell a story of God’s plan being fulfilled. What is remarkable is that none of the individuals involved today had any relationship to each other, yet all were integral in causing God’s plan of salvation to come together. Isaiah, probably thinking he was delivering a message to his King so the people would take heart that God was with them, predicted the birth of Jesus, born of a virgin, called Emmanuel, the Messiah.

Following Isaiah by hundreds of years comes St. Joseph, of the line of King David as Ahaz was, selected by God to foster His only Son who was to be the salvation of the world. Finally we have St. Paul who comes as an Apostle of the Son of God to bring the message of hope, predicted by Isaiah and fostered by Joseph to the world. We stand today in awe of God’s wondrous works.

The baton is passed to us as we gather ourselves for the final rush to the Nativity of the Lord. We take the message of peace and joy which is encompassed by the Kingdom of God into a world that prefers the darkness of greed, hate, and hedonism. Like a scene from a vampire movie, we take the cross of Christ to dispel the evil of the world an bring hope to those without hope and love to the unloved.

Always it has been the same. God called Isaiah to deliver a hard message, he called Joseph to take on a heavy burden based upon faith, and he hurled St. Paul to a hostile world. We reach out for the hand of the infant Jesus knowing where it leads and pledge once more to walk with him to the Kingdom of God.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “The Nativity of Jesus” by Caravaggio, 1609

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent


Readings for Saturday of the Third Week of Advent[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Samuel 1:24-28

In this passage from First Samuel we see Samuel’s 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.

Gospel Luke 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. In her dedication of the service she offers to God as vessel of the Messiah she sets the stage for the humble birth of Jesus.

Reflection:

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. They 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, we 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.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Madonna della Misericordia” by Fra Bartolomeo, 1515

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday of the Third Week of Advent


Commemoration of Saint Peter Canisius,

Priest and Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Peter Canisius[1]

Readings for Friday of the Third Week of Advent[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Song of Songs 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." This reading is a favorite at weddings for obvious reasons. Placed here, on the verge of Christmas tide, we see a more complete purpose as the Church rejoices in the coming of her bridegroom, Christ.

Or
Zephaniah 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”.

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.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 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. The theme of breathless anticipation is again expressed as the psalmist sings; “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield,” The sense of renewed passion for the Lord is captured in the response which is taken from the first verse of this psalm.

Gospel Luke 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.

Reflection:

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.

As we think about all the Holy Mother endured to bring us God’s gift, our prayer today must be one that is written on our hearts:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord be with you. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

Pax


[1] The icon today is of “St. Peter Canisius” by contemporary artist Fr. William Hart McNichols, his work is published through St. Andrei Rublev Icons http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/andre/
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent



Readings for Thursday of the Third Week of Advent[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Isaiah 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 accounts of the nativity of the Lord from the Gospels.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 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.” Followed as it is by the account of the Annunciation we see Mother Mary and the Lord standing in that space.

Gospel Luke 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 (the eternal implication of this statement is made clear in the greeting which presupposes knowledge of Mary’s entire existence). 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?” Even though she does not understand Mary accepts she role and is told that the Holy Spirit will be the agent of the life within her and utters those amazing words: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

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, informing her of the pregnancy of Elizabeth.

Reflection:

We near the end of our spiritual preparation for the great feast of the Lord’s Nativity. We have heard the Baptist’s cry and have been called to look to our hearts to see the place we have made for the Lord. As the starter of a race says, we have already been told “On your mark.” With the proclamation once more of St. Luke’s story of the Annunciation, we find ourselves poised as the second warning, “get set” brings us to a barely contained state of expectation. (Hold steady, it will be four more days before we hear “Go.” No false starts now.)

Even as we hold ourselves at readiness we take one last look at our preparations.

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?

We could not help but be 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.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Virgin of the Annunciation” by Antonello da Messina, c. 1475

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent


Reading 1 Judges 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 Psalm 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!

Psalm 71 is the lament of an old person whose afflictions are considered to be divine judgment. The focus of this passage is on the dedication of this person to God from birth and follows the theme established above in Judges. Here we are told of the faithfulness of one so dedicated.
Gospel
Luke 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 the case of Zechariah, the angle was one of the three named archangels, Gabriel. Both children were dedicated to God from the womb but St. John the Baptist, whose tale this is, 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 for having given her the gift of her child. This statement reflects the societal view of that period 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.”

Reflection:

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 these 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 with events like the miraculous conception of Sampson and culminating in the most spectacular event in all eternity with the birth of Jesus, God’s Only Begotten Son.

We see clearly, in Holy Scripture, the similarities between these touch points and just as clearly the differences come into stark relief. In the case of 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).

Seeing the marvels the Lord has done through these ancient people of faith, we must ask ourselves “Is the Lord going to act through me?” The people he chose were not, before their choosing, persons who would have been expected to be “world changing.” Yet, look at the roles they played. If God can take Zechariah and Elizabeth and call them to bare a Prophet and call Manoah and his wife to bare a King, what may he ask of us? What does he ask of us?

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. Our ears are now keenly open for his guidance.

Pax


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Zechariah and Gabriel” by Julius Schonnor von Carolsfeld, 1851-60

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent



Reading 1 Jeremiah 23:5-8

This passage is part of the “Booklet on Kings”. In it the prophet exhorts them to rule with justice with special attention to the poor. The last two verses of this passage were probably written during the exile, looking forward to the return to the land. We see in this passage the Prophet Jeremiah predicting the coming of the Messiah who will rule with justice for all time.

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

Our psalm today, again taken from the Royal Psalms sung by the king, 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 this Advent season we see this song sung by the Son of God who comes with justice for the poor. In the final strophe we conclude with praise for a God who while unseen, makes his presence known through his creation.


The passage we are given today is the beginning of St. Matthew’s story of the nativity of Jesus 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 natural genealogical line is broken but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph's adoption the child belongs to the family of David. Matthew sees the virginal conception as the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14.” (NAB)

Reflection:

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 messenger and the voice and will that he was hearing were being communicated by God through him.

He went further than listening, he accepted 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.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Joseph’s Dream” by Gaetano Gandolfi, 1790