31 December 2009

31 Dec 09 Thursday, The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

Reading 1
1 Jn 2:18-21


Children, it is the last hour;
and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming,
so now many antichrists have appeared.
Thus we know this is the last hour.
They went out from us, but they were not really of our number;
if they had been, they would have remained with us.
Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.
But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One,
and you all have knowledge.
I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.

Gospel
Jn 1:1-18


In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,

has revealed him.

Meditation: 1 John 2:18-21

Children, it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)


Do these words make you feel a little uneasy? We just celebrated the coming of Jesus at Christmas a week ago, and now we are being reminded that this is not the end of the story. Rather, it’s just the beginning. From the time of Jesus’ birth to today and beyond, we are all heading toward the end of time, when Jesus will come again in glory. Does that thought fill you with fear and trembling? Or hope and expectation?

The truth is, our reactions are probably a bit of both. But whenever we are fearful, it’s probably because we’ve lost sight of the truth we celebrated at Christmas: The light has come into the world, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

We don’t know what the coming year will hold. We may very well face economic difficulties, trouble in our marriage or with our children, illness, or death. But whatever the future holds, darkness will never overcome the light of Christ!

As we look forward toward a new year, let’s fix our eyes on this truth. It’s like riding a bicycle. If you look at your front wheel, you’ll probably veer off the road and fall. But if you lift your head and fix your eyes on your destination, you’ll get there much more smoothly.

So aim high as you approach 2010! Christ is with you, and his promises can bring you hope. You can walk confidently through any type of turmoil because you belong to him. His Spirit dwells in you, so keep your head high. Jesus has overcome the darkness and has raised you above even your own anxieties and fears.

Get goint! Walk on in faith, looking toward Jesus enthroned in heaven. He is patiently unfolding his perfect plan. Who knows what this year will hold? Who knows what blessings God will pour out on you, what opportunities you will have to proclaim his glory, what ways even your challenges might bring others into his kingdom! There is a lot that we don’t know. But we do know that Jesus the Lord reigns over the coming year!

“Jesus, I lift my eyes to you! You are my end goal, and with you is where I want to be! I will look ahead with hope. Come, Lord Jesus!”

30 December 2009

30 Dec 09 Wednesday, The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Reading 1
1 Jn 2:12-17


I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.

I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.

But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

Gospel
Lk 2:36-40


There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;

and the favor of God was upon him.

Meditation: 1 John 2:12-17

Do not love the world. (1 John 2:15)


What is the difference between having our hearts set on the world and having our hearts set on Jesus? To answer the question, we must first understand what John meant by the term “the world.” He was not speaking of the physical world, which is still very good (Genesis 1:31). Nor was he saying that everything in society is hopelessly sinful. Rather, he was speaking of society and culture to the extent that it is ruled by a mind-set focused only on the finite world that is opposed to God. For John, “the world” meant a way of thinking that forgets about God and puts self first.

John wrote that while this worldly way of life may appear attractive for a time, it is ultimately unsatisfying, fruitless, and passing away. This is in stark contrast to those who love God. However old they may be, they are young and vigorous (1 John 2:12-14). They have experienced forgiveness of their sins. Their hearts are raised up to understand and taste heavenly realities. They have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ himself. They are forward-looking visionaries who are learning to see their lives and the world around them from a heavenly perspective. With joy and purpose, they dedicate themselves to advancing the kingdom of God on earth even as they go about their everyday lives.

Christianity is not meant to turn us into dreamers filled with na├»ve idealism. It makes us into realists. We may see the darkness in the world, but we are also filled with confidence in Jesus’ power to overcome that darkness and establish God’s kingdom.

This is the life in store for anyone who sets out to follow Jesus. Does it sound too good to be true? Does it seem too hard? Do you still find yourself too attached to the things of “this world”? We really can come to know the vitality of the Christian life because Christ is in us. It is not based on our personalities but on the transforming power of his Spirit. It is the result of having a living friendship with Jesus.

“Lord Jesus, I am far from perfect, but I want to live as St. John described. I give myself to you. Please fill me with your Spirit. Enable me to love you and serve you!”

29 December 2009

29 Dec 09 Tuesday, The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Reading 1
1 Jn 2:3-11


Beloved:

The way we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you
but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going

because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Gospel
Lk 2:22-35


When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
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 child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)

so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Meditation: Luke 2:22-35

The Holy Spirit was upon him. (Luke 2:25)


Few people noticed anything unusual about the young couple who entered the Temple that morning or the child they brought in to consecrate to God. Simeon, however, was different. This was the moment he had been waiting for! This was the child he had been told about, the One who would save Israel from their sins. This was Jesus, the Messiah. But why was he one of only two people who recognized him that day?

Simeon recognized Jesus because he was looking for him. He had faithfully sought to follow God’s laws and had always watched for “the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). And so when the Spirit spoke, he was attuned to his voice, and he listened. In fact, one way to translate Simeon’s name is “one who hears.” That particular day, God told him to go to the Temple, and he went. And for his fidelity, he was greatly rewarded. He saw Jesus at last, and his life was complete.

Notice, too, that this whole scene takes place in the Temple, the house of the Lord. It was in the context of worship, an environment of prayer, that Simeon was able to recognize the Messiah in an unlikely form. Surely there was something about being in this setting that helped Simeon hear the Lord and see Jesus. He was in a holy place, and he was prayerful himself. Such a combination is sure to unlock the treasures of God’s blessings!

What about us? Every Sunday, we gather at the house of the Lord to sing hymns of praise, to hear God’s word, and to lift up our hearts to him. And every Sunday, we have the opportunity to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. We can be like Simeon—prayerfully and eagerly looking for Jesus and ready to receive him. Or we can be like the other people in the Temple that day—going about our business with our minds fixed on more mundane issues. Jesus is there, waiting for us in the Eucharist. Let’s open our eyes so that we can see him!

“Lord, open the eyes of my heart so that I can see you, embrace you, and be transformed by you!”

28 December 2009

28 Dec 09 Monday, Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

Reading 1
1 Jn 1:5—2:2


Beloved:

This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say, “We have fellowship with him,”
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, “We are without sin,”
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,

and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

Gospel
Mt 2:13-18


When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,

since they were no more.

Meditation: Matthew 2:13-18

The Holy Innocents


The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. (Matthew 2:13)

God wants to speak to us. He really wants to speak to us. After all, he created us with a spiritual soul capable of having a personal relationship with him. That’s something he gave to no other being on earth. He fashioned us so that we can be intimately connected to him, sharing our hearts and minds with him, even as he gives us a share in his own heart and mind.

Now, most of us are pretty good at letting God know what we’re thinking and feeling, but how many of us hear from him in return?

God is always working, always speaking—not in extraordinary ways like the loud voice heard at the transfiguration. No, more often his voice comes as a thought that rises up, unprompted, in our minds—perhaps a thought to pray for someone else or a sudden new insight about God’s love. Some people wake up in the morning with a hymn or praise song running though their minds. That too can be God’s voice.

God might even give you senses in your dreams, just as he gave Joseph. Joseph tested them, experimented with them, and learned from them. It was through a dream that Joseph was reassured about marrying Mary. It was also because of a dream that Joseph awoke in the night, took Mary and the infant Jesus, and fled to Egypt. He took the sense of that dream seriously and acted immediately. As a result, Jesus was protected from Herod’s murderous rage, and God’s plan could move forward.

Of course, Joseph had other ways of hearing God: the promptings of his conscience, the guidance of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the advice of a trusted rabbi. And so do we. But Joseph was also open to the less usual ways. We can be, too. Ask God to speak to you. Give him the freedom to speak any way he chooses. Simply be open to the possibility of hearing from the Creator of the universe. It’s exciting, and if you ask, he will not refuse.

“Father, I believe you are always working and always speaking. Please help me to recognize your voice. Teach me how to open my heart and my mind to you. Speak, Lord, and I will listen.”

27 December 2009

27 Dec 09 Sunday, The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Reading 1
Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 or 1Sm 1:20-22, 24-28


God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

or

In those days Hannah conceived, and at the end of her term bore a son
whom she called Samuel, since she had asked the LORD for him.
The next time her husband Elkanah was going up
with the rest of his household
to offer the customary sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vows,
Hannah did not go, explaining to her husband,
“Once the child is weaned,
I will take him to appear before the LORD
and to remain there forever;
I will offer him as a perpetual nazirite.”

Once Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him up with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”

Hannah left Samuel there.

Reading II
Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 or 1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24


Brothers and sisters:
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,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.

or

Brothers and sisters:
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,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

or

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
And so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us

is from the Spirit he gave us.

Gospel
Lk 2:41-52


Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor

before God and man.

Meditation: Luke 2:41-52

The Holy Family


Son, why have you done this to us? (Luke 2:48)

We tend to think of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a model family we could never emulate. It is easy to think that they could never understand what we face day by day. That might be the case if the church were to call this the feast of the “Perfect Family.” But perfection and holiness are not always the same thing. We live in an imperfect world, and messy things happen, no matter who we are. The key is how we respond when they do.

Look at this little incident as an example. A boy disappears without informing anyone, apparently giving no thought to the anxiety he may cause his parents. The parents, meanwhile, neglect to make sure their son is with them before starting on a long journey. When they retrace their steps to Jerusalem, they have no idea where to look for Jesus, because they really don’t understand him or where God may be leading him. Riddled with anxiety, they don’t hesitate to reproach him when they finally do find him.

Yet in all these anxieties and misunderstandings, they remain holy, full of love for God and one another!

There are times when we make mistakes, fail to understand each other, or feel very anxious. It’s all right to tell family members and close friends how their behavior may have disappointed, hurt, or puzzled us, as long as we don‘t condemn or accuse them. Let’s just make sure we listen carefully to their explanations so that we can all move from honesty to greater love and understanding.

Let’s invite the Holy Family into our homes. Let’s see our own families and circles of friends as places where holiness is at home—not a holiness that lives on a shelf untouched by the vicissitudes of daily life, but a holiness that unfolds and deepens as we journey together toward fuller participation in the kingdom of God.

“Joseph, Mary, Jesus, you are the Holy Family because you never stop loving each other. Fill my heart and my home with the same love.”

26 December 2009

26 Dec 09 Saturday, Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

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


Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Gospel
Mt 10:17-22


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,

but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Meditation: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59

St. Stephen


I see the heavens opened. (Acts 7:56)

Seraphim of Sarov, an eighteenth-century Russian Orthodox saint, was fond of saying that the whole goal of the Christian life is to “acquire the Holy Spirit.” Of course, the Spirit is a free gift from God, not some commodity we can go out and get on our own, like cable TV. And through Baptism, we have already received that Spirit. But just like the Christmas presents that people are returning to the stores today, this gift does us no good if we don’t unwrap it and use it. That’s why “acquiring” the Holy Spirit really is our life’s work and highest goal.

St. Stephen is someone who acquired the Spirit. As any Christian does, he grew by being faithful to the day-to-day basics of life in Christ: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship with other Christians, the Eucharist, and prayer (Acts 2:42). Over time, he radiated the love of Christ more and more.

Not just once but twice, Luke emphasizes this by stating that Stephen was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5; 7:55). The first time is in connection with Stephen’s humble service as the church’s first deacon. The second time refers to the way the Spirit led Stephen to a dramatic public role of healing and preaching, and then empowered him to face death joyfully as the church’s first martyr.

What an encouragement Stephen is! If you’re in an “ordinary” season of life, he reminds you that the Spirit fills and forms us through humble tasks and everyday faithfulness. If you’re in an “extraordinary” season of exceptional calling or crisis, Stephen urges you to know that God is with you to strengthen you—even with a dramatic “jolt” of the Spirit if necessary!

Before the Christmas season slips away, set aside some time to reflect on this gift of the Spirit. One thing is sure: He wants to give you more! Ask what you can do to take hold of it all, to “acquire” it. Even a small change in your ordinary life—like a short but regular prayer time—can make all the difference.

May we never settle for less than our full share of God’s gift!

“Holy Spirit, I want more of you! Fill me anew today. Teach and form me; lead and equip me. I surrender myself to you.”

24 December 2009

25 Dec 09 Friday, The Nativity of the Lord Christmas

Reading 1
Is 62:11-12


See, the LORD proclaims
to the ends of the earth:
say to daughter Zion,
your savior comes!
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
They shall be called the holy people,
the redeemed of the LORD,
and you shall be called “Frequented,” a city that is not forsaken.

Reading II
Ti 3:4-7


Beloved:
When the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.


Gospel
Lk 2:15-20


When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,

just as it had been told to them.

Meditation: John 1:1-18

The Nativity of the Lord


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14)

O you chosen of God, sing and exult with all the angels of heaven! The Word has been made flesh. He who was in the beginning with God, overseeing everything that came to be, has become man and lived among us. The longing of all of creation has been fulfilled, and the world is forever transformed.

O you redeemed of the Lord, rejoice! Grace and truth have come to earth in the person of Jesus. A child in a manger reveals the unfathomable glory of God. No longer do we rely only on his Law to know him. He has come to us, and in his presence we behold the depths of God’s love.

O you children of God, open your mouths in praise! We have beheld personally the glory of the Father’s only Son. His grace and truth were made visible to us in the mystery of his incarnation. He is no longer far off from us in our suffering and emptiness. He whom heaven itself cannot hold has taken on our flesh and dwelt among us.

O you beloved of God, bow down and worship the One who has made you his children! Kneel at the manger in awe that this humble baby holds in his person the power to take away all that separates you from God, to restore you to wholeness, and to open the gates of heaven for you.

O you enlivened by his life, celebrate! He has brought light and life where once there was darkness and death. The light of the world shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it. Victory is ours because Christ has come!

“Jesus, I receive your life today. I believe that you are the revelation of the Father, the Light of the World, the Word become flesh. I open my heart to you today—to you whom darkness cannot vanquish, to you who have conquered sin and opened the gates of heaven. Jesus, may I gaze upon your glory forever!”

24 Dec 09, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

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


When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?

“‘It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his Kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me;

your throne shall stand firm forever.’”

Gospel
Lk 1:67-79


“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
for he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
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 hand of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their 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 into the way of peace.”

Meditation: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Should you build me a house? (2 Samuel 7:5)


King David was all settled. His palace was in good order, and he enjoyed victory over all his enemies. Still, he felt that all was not right. The Ark of the Covenant was housed in a tent, while he lived in an ornate palace. This discrepancy did not sit right with David, so he decided to do something about it: He would build God a house. The prophet Nathan confirmed David’s proposal, saying: “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you” (2 Samuel 7:3).

But then God spoke to Nathan and gave David a different message. He told him that it was David’s son who would build him a house, not David. We know that this son was Solomon. And though the temple that he built was beautiful, it was only a physical temple that was eventually destroyed.

Nearly a thousand years later, Jesus was born. What David had lamented—that God dwelt in a lowly tent—Jesus came to set right. Since the fall of our first parents, humanity had given God a lesser role in their lives. They failed to honor him for his holiness and perfection. Because their hearts had been darkened by sin, they couldn’t see him as he truly is. Because our ailment was spiritual, we needed a spiritual remedy.

That remedy came through Jesus, the Word who became flesh and pitched his tent in our midst (John 1:14). He came to take away our sin and open our eyes. He came to rebuild the temple of God—not a temple of stone but a temple of human hearts. This new temple is far greater and far more splendid than anything Solomon could ever have built. It is the body of Christ, the dwelling place of God on this earth.

Tomorrow is Christmas, the day when God took a crucial step toward rebuilding the temple. When you see the baby Jesus tomorrow, make sure that you also see a master builder who is still at work in this world. That’s the one we are called to adore.

“Thank you, Lord, for being faithful to your promises! Jesus, I give you permission to come into my heart and turn it into a temple—a place where you, and you alone, are worshipped and adored.”

23 December 2009

23 Dec 09, Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

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


Thus says the Lord GOD:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Lo, I will send you
Elijah, the prophet,
Before the day of the LORD comes,
the great and terrible day,
To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,
and the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike

the land with doom.

Gospel
Lk 1:57-66


When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?

For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

Meditation: Malachi 3:1-4,23-24

Yes, he is coming! (Malachi 3:1)


Advent is a time of anticipation, a time to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. As part of this preparation, it’s a good idea to take inventory of our spiritual lives and reflect on the past year’s successes and failures in our relationship with the Lord.

Many times we plan to do something special to help us prepare for Christmas. Perhaps we consider attending daily Mass, having a more consistent prayer life, or something else that will put us in a better position to receive Jesus into our hearts more deeply. And yet, despite our best-intentioned plans, the busyness and complexity of life make it hard to follow through. We know we should, but we find it difficult to rearrange our other obligations so that we can be with the Lord. As a result, we rush around getting ready for our celebrations, buying Christmas gifts, and attending social events, but we lose sight of the grace that God is offering us.

It’s only two days before Christmas. What plans did you make four weeks ago? What goals did you set for this Advent? Have you met them? The good news is that it is never too late to welcome Jesus. It’s never too late to remove whatever obstacles exist between you and him. Even now, God is standing next to you, eager for you to turn to him so that he can shower you with his blessings.

Why not try to get to Confession before Christmas? Or at least sit quietly with Jesus in prayer, and ask him to set you free from any sins that are weighing on you. It’s still not too late to know the joy of being forgiven. In the kingdom of God, there is no such thing as a late start. You may not feel entirely ready for the celebration, but you will still know his presence, because every time you take one small step toward God, he takes a giant leap toward you. Let him come in and purify you, making you like gold or precious silver!

“Come, Lord Jesus! Let me receive your mercy so that I can know peace and tranquility during this hectic time. Even now, I want to prepare myself to welcome you with an open heart on Christmas Day.”

22 December 2009

22 Dec 09, Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Reading 1
1 Sm 1:24-28


In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” She left Samuel there.

Gospel
Lk 1:46-56


Mary said:

“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.
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.
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.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months

and then returned to her home.

Meditation: 1 Samuel 1:24-28

He shall be dedicated to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:28)


God answered Hannah’s heartfelt prayer for a son. Overflowing with gratitude, she returned to the sanctuary. First she thanked God for her child. Then she offered him back to God, leaving him behind to be raised in the holy place. Hannah’s generosity opened the way for her son Samuel to become a great prophet and leader, an advisor to powerful kings.

Most of us find it easy to ask God for favors, but sometimes we fail to recognize his loving answers or come back to thank him. What about following Hannah’s example and offering back to God what he has given us? As we do, we may find that God has more in mind than we originally envisioned.

Like Hannah, the Virgin Mary offered her son back to God, even though she knew this would cause both of them tremendous suffering. Those of us who are parents can follow their example, giving back to our heavenly Father the children he has entrusted to us. We can help them to follow the way God has laid before them, even if it turns out to be different from the path we would have chosen.

In fact, we can offer back to God every gift that he gives us. For example, when God gives us a home, we can make it into a dwelling place for his Spirit and a center of hospitality for his people. Or maybe we want to consider how God’s poor have a special claim on our time and resources. Perhaps God has a use for a talent of ours—a use that goes beyond our own comfort and enjoyment.

In prayer today, make a list of the most important blessings God has given you. Thank him for them. Proclaim that these blessings are his, not yours. Then offer them back to him. Tell him that you want to use them for his glory and not yours. God always smiles on this kind of prayer!

“Lord Jesus Christ … all that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your love and your grace are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)

21 December 2009

21 Dec 09 Monday, Advent Weekday

Reading 1
Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a


Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

or

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,

as one sings at festivals.

Gospel
Lk 1:39-45


Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”

Meditation: Luke 1:39-45

Blessed are you among women! (Luke 1:42)


Blessed are you, Mary, who believed that God is trustworthy. You knew that God is faithful. You believed in the One whose goodness and mercy never fail. You embraced his love for us, which is overflowing in kindness and sympathy and the desire to help us. So you waited for the Father, believing that all his plans for your life could be trusted. And because you believed so fully, you are blessed among all women.

Blessed are you, Mary, who believed that God’s word is true and his promises are certain. You believed that God’s intentions are unshakable, continuing forever. You trusted that he knows our hearts, desiring only that we look to him and put our hope in his unfailing love. This is what it means to believe that his word is true: to rest securely in his love—as you did, Mary. And because you trusted so completely, you are blessed among all women.

Blessed are you, Mary, who believed that God is bigger than every fear and concern. You believed that he is the light that drives away the darkness where fear dwells. He is the high tower from which we can look down, safe from isolation, anxiety, and apprehension. Mary, you believed that God can do so much more than we can imagine, so much more than we can even think to ask! Confident in his power and might, and in the abundance of his love, you said yes to him. And because you surrendered so humbly, you are blessed among all women.

Blessed are you, Mary, who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord. You staked your life on the one true God, on his promises, on his power to accomplish what he plans, and on his love and protection. You let him shine his light in your heart and believed with your actions, welcoming the Holy Spirit and bearing the beloved Son of God. And because you opened your heart—and your body—to the Lord so trustingly, you are blessed among all women.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! Help me to trust that God is faithful, dependable, and loving. Teach me to hold firmly to the truth of his words, rest securely in his love, and stake my life on his power and goodness.”

20 December 2009

20 Dec 09, Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reading 1
Mi 5:1-4a


Thus says the LORD:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.

Reading II
Heb 10:5-10


Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’“

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, :Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated

through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel
Lk 1:39-45


Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”

Meditation: Micah 5:1-4

He shall be peace. (Micah 5:4)


For centuries Jews well versed in Scripture pondered Micah’s mysterious promise that someone would come from Bethlehem to “shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord” (Micah 5:3). Over time, Bethlehem, the City of David, became a place of hope, the place from which one who would “be peace” (Micah 5:4) would come.

How unlike the Bethlehem of today! The city that once witnessed the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is now a frequent witness to violence. Most recently, Arab-Israeli tensions escalated there in 2002 when Israeli soldiers entered Arab homes and houses of worship searching for Palestinian militants. This incursion prompted a group of militants to entrench themselves in the Church of the Nativity. Weeks of bloodshed and anxious negotiation followed until the situation reduced to its previous level of manageable tension.

In this holy season, as we look once more to Bethlehem, let’s pray for peace in that city. Imagine the effect it could have on the world if Bethlehem were to become a place of reconciliation and healing! Imagine the effect it could have on the centuries-long animosity between Jews and Christians and Muslims. Imagine the grace that could flow from there to the whole Middle East and beyond. As Pope Benedict XVI has often urged, we should “pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there. Look, O Lord, upon this corner of the earth, your homeland, which is so very dear to you! Let your light shine upon it! Let it know peace!”

Let’s also pray for peace within our own homes—the little “domestic Bethlehems” scattered throughout the world. For if we can foster peace and unity at home, we can become powerful witnesses to the gospel. And Christ can be born in the hearts of all who are touched by our example.

“Jesus, Prince of Peace, reign in love over the place of your birth and all who live there! Bring an end to violence and hatred there, and fill it with peace instead.”

19 December 2009

19 Dec 09, Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

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


There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites,
whose name was Manoah.
His wife was barren and had borne no children.
An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,
“Though you are barren and have had no children,
yet you will conceive and bear a son.
Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink
and to eat nothing unclean.
As for the son you will conceive and bear,
no razor shall touch his head,
for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.
It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel
from the power of the Philistines.”

The woman went and told her husband,
“A man of God came to me;
he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed.
I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name.
But he said to me,
‘You will be with child and will bear a son.
So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.
For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb,
until the day of his death.’”

The woman bore a son and named him Samson.
The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him;

the Spirit of the LORD stirred him.

Gospel
Lk 1:5-25


In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit

to take away my disgrace before others.”

Meditation: Luke 1:5-25

How shall I know this? (Luke 1:18)


Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t promise us something: “You’ll make money if you invest with us.” “Try this diet, and watch the pounds melt away.” “I’ll get you to the airport on time.” So many promises! How do you decide which ones to believe? Here’s a good rule of thumb: Consider the source. Are the promise-makers trustworthy? Do they deliver?

If only Zechariah had applied this simple rule when the angel told him that his aged wife would bear a son. True, after the couple’s many years of infertility, the promise was indeed astounding. But consider the source: God himself! Who could be more reliable?

As an upright and observant Israelite, and a priest besides, Zechariah prayed psalms that praised God for being “trustworthy in every word, and faithful in every work” (Psalm 145:13). Being familiar with his people’s history, he also knew that God had worked this very miracle before—like when Isaac was born to Sarah and Abraham in their old age (Genesis 21:2). And being elderly, Zechariah had lived long enough to witness God’s repeated faithfulness in people’s lives.

So why is it that this venerable priest “did not believe” (Luke 1:20)? It was the very answer he had prayed for! Had so many years of waiting blinded him to God’s power to intervene? Had he resigned himself to his childless fate?

These questions are important, because we can be a lot like Zechariah. We too are surrounded by signs of God’s faithfulness, yet we can feel that God has forgotten us. Maybe we’ve made the wrong kind of peace with our “unanswered” prayers. Maybe we’ve neglected to consider the source of the promises and blessings we desire: our all-loving, all-powerful God!

After Zechariah was struck dumb, he had a lot of time to think things over prayerfully. We have Advent—a great time to examine whether we are settling for less than God wants to give. God wants to work wonders in some area of your life. Can you stretch your faith and give him room to act?

“Father, you can do all things. Take away my fear, my doubt, my discouragement. I trust in you and place my whole life in your hands.”

18 December 2009

18 Dec 09, Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Reading 1
Jer 23:5-8


Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”

Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”;
but rather, "As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north”–
and from all the lands to which I banished them;

they shall again live on their own land.

Gospel
Mt 1:18-25


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,

and he named him Jesus.

Meditation: Matthew 1:18-25

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. (Matthew 1:24)


When we first meet Joseph, we see him as an upright and devout man who is all set to marry a young woman named Mary. But when he learned that Mary was pregnant—by some miracle, she claimed—he reckoned that the godly thing to do was to divorce her quietly. It was an example of thoughtful, compassionate reasoning, and Joseph should be commended for it—except for that angelic visitation he had. No, the angel said, God wanted him to take Mary after all. But because her child did indeed come from God, their union would have to be different from all his previous dreams and expectations.

In Joseph we see a model of humility and openness to God. Like Abraham when asked to sacrifice Isaac, Joseph was willing to follow a new path, even if it didn’t completely make sense. When faced with a radical change in his plans for his life, he took his confusion and distress to God, and he wasn’t disappointed. God spoke to him in a dream and gave him the peace he needed to embark on this new adventure.

Joseph’s story tells us that we should guard against being too attached to our plans. Sometimes, even good and noble goals, such as marriage, a chosen career, or community service may have to be put aside if God moves us in a different direction. Of course, we should always “test everything” and “retain what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). A trusted spiritual advisor, a confessor, or a close friend are indispensable in this process. But in the end, it always comes down to our own humility and openness to God’s infinite possibilities.

Whatever plans the Lord may have for us, it’s comforting to know that God is always on our side. If we seek him, he will reveal himself to us. And as we seek his plans, he will make them clear as well. We just need to stay focused on the main goal for our lives: to grow closer to the Lord and become more and more like him.

“Holy Spirit, nothing can compare with your wonderful plan for me. Help me to remain open to you so that I can see more of your will for my life.”

17 Dec 09, Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Reading 1
Gn 49:2, 8-10


Jacob called his sons and said to them:
“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise
–your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you.
Judah, like a lion’s whelp,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him?
The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,

and he receives the people’s homage.”

Gospel
Mt 1:1-17


The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,

fourteen generations.

Meditation: Matthew 1:1-17

May his name be blessed forever. (Psalm 72:17)


As we might have expected, Jesus’ family tree has many worthy, powerful, and important ancestors. It begins with the patriarch Abraham, who started it all by responding to God’s invitation to trust in his seemingly impossible promises. There’s also Jacob, who wrestled with an angel, as well as the brave King David and the wise King Solomon. Truly a noble lineage worthy of Israel’s Messiah!

However, this list is full of surprises. It includes kings so evil that they brought down God’s punishment on the whole nation and people so obscure that they’re mentioned only here.

Several women are also mentioned—an unusual thing for a Hebrew genealogy. And what women they are! Two are non-Jews (Rahab and Ruth), one is a prostitute (Rahab, Joshua 2), one is an adulteress (Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah,?2 Samuel 11), and one was too weak to obtain justice without resorting to a despicable subterfuge (Tamar, Genesis 38)!

If people like these made it into Jesus’ family line, surely there’s a role for me! Whether I take my place in a long line of believers or have made my own way to the church, I am here by God’s design and God’s invitation. I have received the faith from others in the family of God, and it’s part of my vocation to hand it on to those who will continue to carry forward God’s work in this world.

Spend some time today thinking about your heritage. Who handed down the faith to you? Who awakened your desire to know God and to become a more deliberate part of his family? Thank God for your spiritual ancestors in faith!

Unlikely as it may seem, you are an important link. Younger family members are looking to you to hand on faith to them. Your quiet faithfulness may be a witness that draws someone to explore his or her own call to friendship with God, to membership in the church. Yes, the church has its giants and heroes, but God takes a special delight in using ordinary people like us.

“Father, thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for inviting me to take my place in that lineage. I don’t deserve to be your beloved child, but I’m grateful for my place in your family.”

16 December 2009

16 Dec 09, Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Reading 1
Is 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25


I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this.

For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Who announced this from the beginning
and foretold it from of old?
Was it not I, the LORD,
besides whom there is no other God?
There is no just and saving God but me.

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth,
for I am God; there is no other!
By myself I swear,
uttering my just decree
and my unalterable word:
To me every knee shall bend;
by me every tongue shall swear,
Saying, “Only in the LORD
are just deeds and power.
Before him in shame shall come
all who vent their anger against him.
In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory

of all the descendants of Israel.”

Gospel
Lk 7:18b-23


At that time,
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
When the men came to the Lord, they said,
“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits;
he also granted sight to many who were blind.
And Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Meditation: Luke 7:18-23

Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another? (Luke 7:19)


This may seem like a strange question to come from John the Baptist, especially since his very mission was to prepare the way for Jesus. But there may have been a good reason for it. John may have expected Jesus to be more like him—a radical zealot who preached a message of repentance. But instead of going into the desert and preaching against Herod, Jesus was traveling throughout the towns and cities, healing people and teaching them to love one another. Was he really the One who would bring a baptism of fire, and convict sinners to change their ways?

Jesus’ answer made it clear that he had come as a merciful Savior, not a stern judge. He was the redeemer who would “bring glad tidings to the lowly” and “heal the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1). He wanted them to know that God was not dwelling on their sins—he had a much bigger agenda! Of course, he wanted to forgive them, but he also wanted to bring them into a living relationship with him so that they could know the freedom of being his children.

Today, people are still asking if Jesus is really the one who is to come—and we are the ones they’re asking! They are looking to us to see if Jesus is compassionate and merciful. They’re looking to us to see if he is peaceful and gentle. Perhaps they have not known much compassion in their lives. Perhaps someone in the church has hurt them, whether intentionally or not. We can show them a different face of God.

Your witness can have a special impact during this time of year. During this season, people almost instinctively think about heaven, angels, and even Jesus. If they know that you believe in Christ, if they can tell that you have a relationship with him, half of the work is already done. The testimony of your life will soften their hearts and open them up to the words you speak. Just as Jesus showed John, you can show your neighbors that they don’t have to wait for someone else. Jesus really is the Messiah. He really can heal and forgive and save.

“Jesus, free me from self-consciousness so that I can share your love with those who are searching for you.”

15 December 2009

15 Dec 09, Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Reading 1
Zep 3:1-2, 9-13


Thus says the LORD:
Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted,
to the tyrannical city!
She hears no voice,
accepts no correction;
In the LORD she has not trusted,
to her God she has not drawn near.

For then I will change and purify
the lips of the peoples,
That they all may call upon the name of the LORD,
to serve him with one accord;
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
and as far as the recesses of the North,
they shall bring me offerings.

On that day
You need not be ashamed
of all your deeds,
your rebellious actions against me;
For then will I remove from your midst
the proud braggarts,
And you shall no longer exalt yourself
on my holy mountain.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD:
the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong
and speak no lies;
Nor shall there be found in their mouths
a deceitful tongue;
They shall pasture and couch their flocks

with none to disturb them.

Gospel
Mt 21:28-32


Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,

you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Meditation: Matthew 21:28-32

Go out and work in the vineyard today. (Matthew 21:28)


We often hear preaching that compares our relationship with God to the bond between a father and his trusting young child. While this imagery can be very helpful, it is important to remember that we often act more like a know-it-all teenager than an innocent three-year-old. So let’s try to look at our relationship with God in a different light.

Taking your cue from today’s Gospel reading, put yourself in the position of an independent young adult who works in the family business. Your father is the owner, and you are working with your brothers and sisters to ensure the success of your Father’s vision. It’s his business, and at the end of the day, he is the one who has to take responsibility for the company’s ups and downs. But you also know that the company’s future is in your hands as well. If you don’t pull your weight, your whole family will be affected, and the business won’t thrive.

This approach to the Christian life can help us understand why Jesus was so direct in dealing with the Pharisees and other religious leaders who opposed him. Theirs was a high calling: to help the people of Israel stay faithful to the covenant God had made with them. Ordinary, everyday Jews looked to their example for guidance. Rabbis deferred to their knowledge of the Law of Moses. They even held sway over Herod’s royal court. So you can imagine how much it must have pained Jesus to see some of these leaders take their calling lightly and abuse their positions of authority. Not only were they hurting themselves, they were hurting those who relied on them.

Today’s Gospel passage offers us a warning: We all bear some responsibility for the kingdom of God. The church depends on our faithfulness to the Lord. What’s more, people depend on us. We are all part of the biggest family business around: a gathering of brothers and sisters known as the church, the body of Christ. We need to take responsibility for this church if we want to see it thrive and prosper. It can be hard work at times, but like any family business, if we don’t do it, no one else will.

“Father, here I am. I am ready to go into your vineyard. By your Spirit, give me the grace to build your kingdom today.”

14 December 2009

14 Dec 09 Monday, Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a


When Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel encamped, tribe by tribe,
the spirit of God came upon him,
and he gave voice to his oracle:

The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
the utterance of a man whose eye is true,
The utterance of one who hears what God says,
and knows what the Most High knows,
Of one who sees what the Almighty sees,
enraptured, and with eyes unveiled:
How goodly are your tents, O Jacob;
your encampments, O Israel!
They are like gardens beside a stream,
like the cedars planted by the LORD.
His wells shall yield free-flowing waters,
he shall have the sea within reach;
His king shall rise higher,
and his royalty shall be exalted.

Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle:

The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
the utterance of the man whose eye is true,
The utterance of one who hears what God says,
and knows what the Most High knows,
Of one who sees what the Almighty sees,
enraptured, and with eyes unveiled.
I see him, though not now;
I behold him, though not near:
A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.

Gospel
Mt 21:23-27


When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?
Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd,
for they all regard John as a prophet.”
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them,

“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Meditation: Matthew 21:23-27

Who gave you this authority? (Matthew 21:23)


You can almost hear the foot stamp that goes with this demand. Just tell us! Not because we really care about what’s true but so that we can find a way to get rid of you. Jesus had just ridden triumphantly into Jerusalem, and people were already hanging on his words, being healed, and singing his praises. That made some of the religious authorities unhappy. They were determined to prove his teaching wrong so that they could stop others from believing in him.

It’s a ridiculous request, really, and yet Jesus’ enemies were sure of themselves. They didn’t think he was smart enough, on a human level, to avoid their trap. They certainly didn’t believe that he was God’s chosen Messiah. They could not allow themselves to accept that this everyday preacher could be Israel’s salvation.

Sometimes the gospel is as hard for us to believe as it was for these religious leaders. For instance, Scripture is clear that God knows everything about you. Do you believe it? That can be a scary thought, because we all have “stuff” lurking in the shadowy corners of our hearts. But God loves you unconditionally, regardless of what you have done or failed to do. He loves you in spite of your judgments and biases. He loves you through your weaknesses and infirmities.

Because of his love, God also knows what’s best for you—even if you don’t agree with him. Do you believe that? He has the right to direct your life, no matter what your intellect tells you and no matter what your own desires or goals may be.

It can be hard to believe sometimes, but God really does love you. He really does want good for your life. It’s okay to ask him the challenging questions from time to time: Why is this happening to me? How should I respond to the crisis unfolding around me? We just need to be sure we don’t sound like these elders of Israel who asked an innocent question … but with devious motives. If our hearts are right when we ask, God will answer us. Even better than that, his answer will comfort us!

“Father, I know I need healing and forgiveness, but mostly I need to know that I can rely on your love. Open my heart so that I can trust you more.”

13 December 2009

13 Dec 09, Third Sunday of Advent

Reading 1
Zep 3:14-18a


Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Reading II
Phil 4:4-7


Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Gospel
Lk 3:10-18


The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Meditation: Luke 3:10-18

What then should we do? (Luke 3:10)


John the Baptist may have lived in a world that was just as muddled as ours, but he was far less muddled than most of the people around him. If he were here today, he would tell us the same thing that he told the people of ancient Judea: We all need to look at how we integrate the gospel into our daily lives.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us a number of examples of John’s teachings. Asked about the right way to live, he avoided lengthy theoretical discourses. Rather, he focused immediately on people’s behavior. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Luke 3:11). He told tax collectors to stop cheating people. He told soldiers to be honest and just and to stop bullying those weaker than they were. It seems that everything John said and did could be reduced to one command: Treat one another with the same love that God has for you!

Clearly, no one had a hard time trying to figure out where John stood. In fact, it was his blunt, no-nonsense approach to holiness that got him in trouble with King Herod and eventually cost him his life.

When we look at the Sermon on the Mount, we find Jesus also telling us how we should live. He told us that anger, hatred, and resentment are just as serious as murder. He told us that lusting after someone is just as bad as committing adultery. He said that the “least” are those who disobey God’s commands, while the “greatest” are those who keep them (Matthew 5:19).

How are you living? As Christmas approaches, take John’s advice and repent. Make sure to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that you can get rid of your sins and be ready to welcome Jesus with a heart as clean as John’s. Turn to the Lord, and let him answer the question: What then should I do?

“Jesus, reduce me to love! Burn away everything in me that is opposed to this simplest of your commandments.”

12 December 2009

12 Dec 09 Saturday, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Reading 1
Zec 2:14-17 or Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab


Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people,
and he will dwell among you,
and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
The LORD will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land,
and he will again choose Jerusalem.
Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD!
For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

or

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”

Gospel
Lk 1:26-38 or Lk 1:39-47


The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

or

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Meditation: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6,10

Our Lady of Guadalupe


A great sign appeared in the sky. (Revelation 12:1)

Can you imagine what it would be like to be out walking one day and suddenly see a woman of perfect demeanor, her clothes shining like the sun? Well, this is pretty much what happened in 1531. Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a recent native convert, on Tepeyac Hill, in what is now Mexico City. She asked that Juan Diego go to his bishop and ask that a church be built there, a “house for her son.”

When the bishop asked for a sign, the woman told Juan Diego to fill his cloak with flowers that appeared miraculously on the hill. Returning to the bishop, Juan Diego opened his cloak to find not only the flowers but also an image of Mary, “clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet,” on his cloak.

On Tepeyac Hill, Mary identified herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she appeared at a time when human sacrifice was part of the native Aztec culture. It has been estimated that one out of every five children was sacrificed to the Aztecs’ gods. The image on Juan Diego’s cloak conveyed an important message to the Aztecs. The woman stood in front of the sun and wore stars on her mantle. Her feet not only rested on the moon but also were crushing the head of a serpent. All of these images were gods that the Aztecs worshipped. The cross around the woman’s neck revealed that her God was that of the Spanish missionaries. The sash that she wore indicated she was pregnant—pregnant, in fact, with the author of life, Jesus Christ. Through this miraculous image, the Aztecs were introduced to the one true God.

This appearance of Mary caused millions of natives to be converted to Christ and to abandon the practice of child sacrifice. Today, millions of unborn children are slaughtered by abortion. These children, however, are not thrown down the steps of Aztec pyramids but instead are placed into garbage cans, incinerated, or used for scientific research. On a day like today, we should all turn to Mary and ask her to intervene yet again on behalf of these innocent little victims.

“Mary, intercede for us to bring an end to abortion. Come and crush the head of the serpent so that life will triumph over death.”

11 December 2009

11 Dec 09, Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Reading 1
Is 48:17-19


Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.
If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
Your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born of your stock like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.

Gospel
Mt 11:16-19


Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
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.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Meditation: Matthew 11:16-19

Wisdom is vindicated by her works. (Matthew 11:19)


Have you ever had a friend come seeking your advice? He pours out his heart, and you listen attentively and suggest a course of action. Immediately he shoots it down, explaining why it will never work. You may suggest a different solution and receive the same response. Finally, you realize that your friend doesn’t want advice. Either he feels stuck in an unchangeable situation, or he has already decided what to do and can’t listen to anything that doesn’t confirm his choice.

Such a friend may remind us of the children in the marketplace in today’s Gospel. Their friends invite them to join in a dance, but they refuse. Nor will they wail and play “funeral.” All they can do is condemn the games others are playing. Could this describe us when we seek direction from the Lord? We sincerely want to know God’s will, but we find it hard to set aside our own analysis of the situation or give up our own plans.

God promises in today’s first reading that he wants to lead us on the way we should go. But it’s up to us to listen to his voice. This kind of humble listening works better if we invite God to loosen our attachment to our own ways and open our eyes to his perspective.

Sometimes we may sense divine encouragement. As we pray, a gentle thought forms in our mind: “You’re going in the right direction. Hang in there. The resolution is in sight.” Or we will unexpectedly think of a new way to use an undeveloped talent. God is inviting us to dance!

Sometimes we may sense God questioning our priorities. Perhaps we will be inspired to get up a little earlier and spend uninterrupted time reading the Bible. Perhaps we will begin by asking God how we can get ahead at work—and have the nagging feeling that we’ve been neglecting responsibilities at home. God is inviting us to mourn for our sins and make a change.

Remembering how much God loves us, let’s stop talking long enough to listen to him. Let’s set aside our plans and try entering into his better idea.

“Father, you know me inside and out. Help me to see myself as you see me. Lead me along the path that leads to friendship with you.”