Monday, December 31, 2012

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God: "Born of a woman"

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.

Mary is truly "Mother of God" since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.
- CCC 509

Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living. By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age. Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women. Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."
-- CCC 489

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saint Thomas Becket, martyr: "Whoever hates his brother is in darkness"

the darkness has blinded his eyes.
-- 1 Jn 2:3-11

Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."
-- CCC 2303

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents, martyrs: "I lay down my life"

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.

The Son of God, who came down "from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]", said on coming into the world, "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God." "And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father's plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work." The sacrifice of Jesus "for the sins of the whole world" expresses his loving communion with the Father. "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life", said the Lord, "[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father."
-- CCC 606

Art: Giotto, Slaughter of the Holy Innocents

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist: "we have seen"

and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us
--1 Jn 1:1-4

Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night. He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that "his brethren" experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them. It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.
-- CCC 2602

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Saint Stephen, first martyr: "You will be hated by all"

... because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
-- Mt 10:17-22

Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"
-- CCC 161

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24: “Blessed be the Lord"

... the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free.

-- Lk 1:67-79

"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." John was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary's visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.

-- CCC 717

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23: "O Emmanuel"

O EMMANUEL, God with us, Our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Saviour: COME to save us, O Lord our 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.
Mal 3:1-4, 23-24

Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned. Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. On the Last Day Jesus will say: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
-- CCC 678

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22: "O Rex Gentium"

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: COME, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
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.”

-- 1 Sm 1:24-28

Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living. By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age. Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women. Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."

-- CCC 489

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21: "O Oriens"

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice: COME, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

-- Zep 3:14-18a

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel's greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. "Rejoice . . . O Daughter of Jerusalem . . . the Lord your God is in your midst." Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is "the dwelling of God . . . with men." Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

-- CCC 2676

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent: "Blessed art thou"

... among women
-- Lk 1:39-45

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel's greeting, we make Elizabeth's greeting our own. "Filled with the Holy Spirit," Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary "blessed." "Blessed is she who believed. . . . " Mary is "blessed among women" because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord's word. Abraham, because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God's own blessing: Jesus, the "fruit of thy womb."
-- CCC 2676

December 19: "O Radix Jesse"

O ROOT OF JESSE, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: COME, to deliver us, and tarry not.

An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman
“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
-- Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a

Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.
-- CCC 332

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18: "O Adonai"

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.”

The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility: "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee. The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."
-- CCC 497

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17: "O Sapientia"

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.
To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." From the beginning he was "the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world", conceived as "holy" in Mary's virginal womb. God called Joseph to "take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", so that Jesus, "who is called Christ", should be born of Joseph's spouse into the messianic lineage of David.
-- CCC 437

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Rejoice in the Lord always": the co-existence of good and evil and God's plan for salvation

“Rejoice."  Our Church calls to us with the voice of God in the holy Scriptures today, "Rejoice in the Lord always!"

But with the evil we see in the world, especially such senseless horror as we all witnessed in Connecticut last week, does it not seem somewhat scandalous, or at least insensitive, to call for rejoicing?  And yet, our Church with the love of God for all of us, nevertheless reminds us that we “always” have reason and need to rejoice. 

"God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD"

In the face of evil we mourn with those who mourn in loving compassion.  And in the coming days we will be amazed and awed at the goodness of those who fought against the  evil actions of a single young man at the elementary school, who bravely stood up against evil in order to defend the weak and the innocent: a principal who fought and died as he shot his way into the building, a young teacher who died defending her young students with her own body.

This is the kind of rejoicing about which God speaks in the Scriptures: the love of God manifest in the human person which can bring good out of every evil.
And we follow and love a God who is on the cross not for Himself, but completely for us, fighting evil and sin with us and in us so that we can have true joy, authentic “happiness", with His help.

Human priorities sometimes clash with God's.  Sometimes human beings put other things before salvation in order of importance, such as total comfort, no suffering or pain in this life.  And sometimes, when they don't get this, people turn against God, stop going to church, stop believing.  But the Lord will not change His priorities for us because He know in His holy wisdom what we need most of all, which is the kind of joy which can never be taken away, the joy of heaven itself.  Some people will always find this scandalous and will always reject this truth unless they first undergo a conversion to love of God and His will.

Which brings us to the one thing which can jeopardize God's heavenly promise for us: sin.  Because sin is incompatible with God's good and holy plan for our eternal happiness with Him, he insists that we go to Christ crucified and risen for forgiveness.

"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."

God's mercy in Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to fear no misfortunes in this world.

God says that true joy, real happiness, can never come from looking only at what's wrong with the world but rather comes in the first place by facing what's wrong with ourselves and asking His help to fix it and int hat way, beginning to fx what is wrong with the world.

"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."

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen ((((,,)))) 

Friday, December 14, 2012

St John of the Cross: "take up your cross"

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

According to St. John of the Cross, the person wishing to advance toward perfection should "take care into whose hands he entrusts himself, for as the master is, so will the disciple be, and as the father is so will be the son." And further: "In addition to being learned and discreet a director should be experienced. . . . If the spiritual director has no experience of the spiritual life, he will be incapable of leading into it the souls whom God is calling to it, and he will not even understand them.

-- CCC 2690

Friday, December 7, 2012

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: “Hail, full of grace!"

Genesis 3, 9-15. 20; Psalm 98, 1.2-3. 3-4; Ephesians 1, 3-6. 11-12; St. Luke 1, 26-38

The Church celebrates the birth of our Lady on September 8 and today, nine months prior, her Immaculate Conception.

"To become the mother of the Savior, Mary 'was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.' (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium 56.) The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation saluted her as 'full of grace.' (Lk 1:28) In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace." (CCC 490)

"Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, 'full of grace' through God, (Lk 1:28) was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
"The most blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (Pius XI, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854: DS 2803)"
(CCC 491)
"The 'splendor of an entirely unique holiness' by which Mary is 'enriched from the first instant of her conception' comes wholly from Christ: she is 'redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, more than any other created person' in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' and chose her 'in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.' (Cf. Eph 1:3-4)" (CCC 492)
"The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God 'the All-Holy' (Panagia) and celebrate her as 'free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.' (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium 56.) By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long." (CCC 493)

Art: Inmaculada Concepción o/l. 147x94 cm. Firmada A. Cortina, 1876.

S Ambrose: "run and not grow weary"

They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength
Although Confirmation is sometimes called the "sacrament of Christian maturity," we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need "ratification" to become effective. St. Thomas reminds us of this:
Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood man can attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: "For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years. "Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.
-- CCC 1308

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St Nicholas. That " of these little ones be lost"

Comfort, give comfort to my people,says your God. Speak tenderly...

At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God's love excludes no one: "So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." He affirms that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many"; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."
-- CCC 605

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide"

he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
For the Christian the day of death inaugurates, at the end of his sacramental life, the fulfillment of his new birth begun at Baptism, the definitive "conformity" to "the image of the Son" conferred by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and participation in the feast of the Kingdom which was anticipated in the Eucharist- even if final purifications are still necessary for him in order to be clothed with the nuptial garment.
-- CCC 1682
Wednesday, Advent I

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

S John Damascene: "Take as your norm the sound words you have heard from me"

in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
-- Timothy 1:13-14, 2:1-3

The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!" Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you." This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.
-- CCC 459

Monday, December 3, 2012

St Francis Xavier: "If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast"

for an obligation has been imposed on me
-- 1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23

1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." In the Church's preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.
-- CCC 1427 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Sunday of Advent: "Be vigilant at all times"

Jeremiah 33. 14-16; Psalm 25. 4-5, 8-10, 14; 1 Thessalonians 3. 12-4. 2; Luke 21. 25-28, 34-36
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Archbishop Wuerl of Washington once made the humorous observation that “one knows it’s time for Halloween when the Christmas decorations come out” in the stores.
This sad commentary on the power of merchandising over the proper and meaningful celebration of the seasons of life and the mysteries of our Faith is all too true. We are reminded of this every year as we observe once again the clash of colors between Advent violet in our churches and Christmas red splashed liberally beyond the doors of our places of worship. And, again, the temptation arises for some to complain about the situation or to see this phenomenon as another in a growing list of reasons to turn away from the world.
Advent, the season of preparation in the Church, provides a dramatic counterpoint over against a world that ends the celebration of the Savior’s birth precisely on the day it should begin, having commenced the observance months prematurely. Such superficial “cheer” spurs us all the more to love and embrace the yet unredeemed world that stills lacks, and waits unknowingly, for what it most truly needs.
Advent, with its very name, “the coming”, is a yearly season of the Church’s life that invites us to explore once again the important virtue of patience accompanied by prayer. For the faithful there is not a simple “waiting” but rather an active anticipation by prayer, penance and almsgiving. The Lord engages with the world through His Body to work out the salvation of all creation. The Holy Spirit, our companion on the way of faith, is the Divine person who “inspires” us to return again and again to the truth that salvation is not something for which we passively wait in this world, but a reality that has begun already for us in the Church.
The Holy Spirit, the “animator”, soul, or divine Indweller of Jesus’ Body the Church, guarantees for us that we live now already the very life and mysteries of the Savior. This takes place liturgically, in the living proclamation and true presence of the Incarnate Word in our liturgy.

“For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the 'today' of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church's liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.” (CCC 1095)

The Word of God is “living and active” and nowhere more so than when it is proclaimed in the most “living” way at holy Mass. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church makes real and effective, once again, the historical events of salvation history. The Advent mysteries of the Lord’s incarnation are thus re-presented so that we can take a living and active part in them. The preparation for His coming with this season no less:

“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’" (CCC 524)

How important for us is His coming? No less important for us then the preparation for the “advent” of so great a divine Savior. It is the reasonableness of this truth that is our privilege to live and teach the world in Advent. We are thus as a leaven so that all of society and every human person may “rise” with the Bread of Life who really and truly became present among us and ever comes among us again the His Eucharist as the Risen One. He became incarnate to become Sacrifice. He is present among us to save us.

Our Advent violet is a calling to joy for the world, for one must truly prepare for what one hopes to truly receive. The Church lives as a sign of hope in this Advent season once again in the midst of a world in need of redemption. Let us go forth to celebrate the real joy that Advent brings, the authentic coming of the Lord and Savior, as one who will live in our hearts and minds by grace upon His coming at Christmas. If we would do that, we must prepare the way. "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths!"

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Image: The Holy Father inaugurates the use of his new pastoral cross, or ferule, at first vespers for the first Sunday of Advent.

"An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,"

flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the street
The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church's liturgy, first reveals to us, "A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne": "the Lord God." It then shows the Lamb, "standing, as though it had been slain": Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one "who offers and is offered, who gives and is given." Finally it presents "the river of the water of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb," one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.
-- CCC 1137

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week, Ordinary Time