Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph: "put on love, that is, the bond of perfection."

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.
-- CCC 2207


Lord, Jesus Christ, being subject to Mary and Joseph You sanctified family life by your beautiful virtues. Grant that we, with the help of Mary and Joseph, may be taught by the example of Your holy Family, and may after death enjoy its everlasting companionship.

Lord Jesus, help us ever to follow the example of Your holy Family, that in the hour of our death Your glorious Virgin Mother, together with Saint Joseph, may come to meet us. And may we be worthy to be received by You into the everlasting joys of heaven. You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Find the Holy Family novena prayer here.

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy offers a reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family.

(Photo: Doni Tondo by Michelangelo.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent. "Ask for a sign": God gives the perfect Sign for, in the "present of Presence", He gives Himself

"...the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel."

God is love, and if we wish to have love we must learn to give as God gives. He gives Himself. We must learn to do the same if we want to love and be loved.

Love, then, is presence, one person being present really and truly with all of his or her gifts for the sake of another person. In the case of God's total gift of Himself in Jesus Christ for which we prepare in this final week of Advent, the gift is of the Divine Presence, God is Himself with us, the ones whom He loves. We must learn to give the sign of love as God does if we are to truly know the joy of loving.

The sign of God's "present of presence" on the altar at holy Mass makes this and every church where the Eucharist is celebrated a new Bethlehem, a "house of bread", where God Himself feeds His people with the true nourishment of love. God gives Himself in Jesus Christ every time the holy Mass is celebrated, offered and received.

"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit." (CCC 1325)

The grace of the Eucharistic life continues for us as we learn to give ourselves with sincerity and generosity to one another. We live in true Eucharistic communion as we learn to live and express thankfulness for every human person and for the gifts and graces he or she brings into our lives as a reflection of God's self-giving in the Eucharistic banquet of His love. This self-giving and sacrificial love in communion with and in imitation of Christ must begin in and radiate outward from the Christian family.

"The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task." (CCC 2205)

Many rush about in these final days before Christmas preparing to give well, to give the gift which best expresses love for someone else. Let us also prepare well, through the gift of the Lord Himself in the Eucharist and in a life of sincere and regular prayer, to receive well in words and gestures of kindness and thankfulness, that is, in love, those who give a sign of love to us in this and in all the seasons of our lives. When we do so, we give what the other truly needs and the thing for which every gift serves merely as a sign: the "present of presence".

As we learn to express in sincere words of thanks and selfless gestures of service our gratitude for the presence of others in the family, we practice the "present of presence", the grace of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ which began that first Christmas night, in the family of Mary and Joseph, and which is given to us really and truly once again every time we meet, adore and love the Lord Jesus Emmanuel in the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! Amen!


Image: Nativity by Gaudi, detail from La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

“Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete."

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.”

No matter how many or how long our crosses we are never far from joy. Our “Rejoice” or “Gaudete” Sunday is a Church-wide reminder during Advent that rejoicing is the primary purpose of this period of preparation and of all we do.  Joy is important enough that we should prepare well for it. The gift of a state of grace, the presence of the new-born Christ in each one of us, is the gift He wishes to give us this Christmas. Sins are transformed for us from burdens into joys in the Sacrament of Confession.  If you have not prepared yet in this most important way for Christmas joy, make your appointment now and plan your visit to the Lord in His compassion and mercy this coming week here on Wednesday from 7 pm to 8 pm, prior to all weekend Masses and at neighboring churches as well in the coming days. 

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.” Rejoice in the Lord always: I say it again rejoice!”

"Rejoice in the Lord!": Restoration of the Lord's Day covenant is the key to a joyful Faith

"The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song."

Isaiah's prophecy on this Gaudete, or Rejoice, Sunday comes with a promise: those who live as if in dry and arid places will see an end to their privation and will have the flowering of life for which they long. And they shall rejoice. Their exultation will be true rejoicing because it will never be taken away and therefore not tinged with any worldly care or limitation. When God gives He gives everything and His gifts are without beginning or end. If we want authentic happiness, a sure source of unending joy, then we must seek it in God as Isaiah invites us to do.

The pause that Advent and Christmas bring, and to which we look forward in joyful anticipation, lift our minds and hearts because they demand something from us: we put aside much of the business in life and focus on things that last: God's total self-giving through Jesus Christ come in the flesh and the faith in Him which we share within our families at home and in the Church. How can we live this Faith always? Must Christmas joy come only once a year?

Christians are called to live the joy of Faith each day, but in a particular and public way each Sunday. Through keeping the Lord's Day covenant well, we shall "rejoice always". How? Through observance of Sunday rest as much as it is possible for us to do and to attend holy Mass except when prevented by a grave reason. By putting aside on one day of the week the things that will not last in this world, and focusing more intensely on the One who never ends and the unending life He shares with us in Christ, born for us at Christmas, we receive again the perfect gift. In Christ our deepest longings and needs are met superabundantly with grace: infinite in power to redeem us from sin and restore us to life. Knowing and living this truth always brings true rejoicing into our lives here on earth.

This Advent we are asked to seek out and encourage those who have fallen into a pattern of neglecting to keep the Lord's Day holy through the worship and rest commanded by God to come back and together with us find in Christ "the perfect gift".

Sunday rest configures our lives more closely to the Creator who rested on the seventh day and who is Love itself and thus seeks to share the true joy of loving with us.

"Sunday, the 'Lord's Day,' is the principal day for the celebration of the Eucharist because it is the day of the Resurrection. It is the pre-eminent day of the liturgical assembly, the day of the Christian family, and the day of joy and rest from work. Sunday is "the foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year" (SC 106). (CCC 1193)

We live in a society which sometimes, unfortunately, is lacking in the balance required between work and rest needed for human flourishing. Americans are a proudly industrious people and known for their hard work, but even work must serve a higher purpose: the good of the human person whose flourishing requires more than "bread alone".

"In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church's holy days as legal holidays. They have to give everyone a public example of prayer, respect, and joy and defend their traditions as a precious contribution to the spiritual life of society. If a country's legislation or other reasons require work on Sunday, the day should nevertheless be lived as the day of our deliverance which lets us share in this 'festal gathering,' this 'assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.' " (CCC 2188)

Belief in God brings true joy when faith is allowed to influence how one lives and inspires a generous return to God for creating and redeeming us in love. Today in our Mass we will profess the Creed together and to say out loud and before the world that "I" believe. Those words must be borne out in a consistent expression of generous love for God and for others in the witness of our lives.

"Thus the Creed's final 'Amen' repeats and confirms its first words: 'I believe.' To believe is to say 'Amen' to God's words, promises and commandments; to entrust oneself completely to him who is the 'Amen' of infinite love and perfect faithfulness. The Christian's everyday life will then be the 'Amen' to the 'I believe' of our baptismal profession of faith:

"May your Creed be for you as a mirror. Look at yourself in it, to see if you believe everything you say you believe. And rejoice in your faith each day." (CCC 1064)

We are invited to share in the rejoicing that God has brought to the world in Christ. As we prepare once again for the great Christmas celebration of God's birth over 2,000 years ago, let us ask for the greatest of all gifts: the love of God expressed in a lived faith, especially in the joyful keeping of the covenant by which we "keep holy the Lord's Day".

Our faith is joyfully expressed in love each Sunday in our worship at Mass in union with the total self-giving of our Eucharistic Lord and Savior, in our rest from servile work and unnecessary shopping, and in the time we spend with our families to deepen our covenant love with God and with one another.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Yes, your child is not ready for Confirmation but here's why I recommend going forward with it anyway.

Dear single Mom,

You wrote to me, sadly, informing me that you had decided to withdraw your daughter from Confirmation faith formation classes as you had reached a conclusion that she is not "prepared " to receive Confirmation this year. You are right. But here 's why I am recommending we go forward with it anyway.

No one can ever adequately prepare for the infinite and divine gift of grace because we are all human. Human beings merit nothing except in Christ who has alone "merited" it for us by reason of His sacred humanity and Divinity through the Passion, death and Resurrection.

Grace is never given because deserved but because of the love and mercy of the Giver, our all-compassionate God. That is the reason why no one is ever truly "prepared" to receive grace as it remains always pure gift.

What we do, however, is make our best effort to prepare which requires an intellectual and volitional component as well as baptismal Faith. Instruction, spiritual exercises such as worship at Mass and personal prayer are necessary therefore. Every child, due to the young age at which he or she is confirmed, needs a Catholic parent or parents who provide consistent and active example and guidance. Very few of our young people who are confirmed today are realistically expected or capable of being mature adult witnesses of the Faith.

Perhaps your family has grown over the years into a habit of sleeping in on Sundays. Perhaps family prayer is tragically a rare and awkward occurrence. These are opportunities, however, and not dead ends. Now is always the right time to do the right thing. God always has the living Word in Christ to offer to us so that human hopelessness will never have the last word in our lives.

Let 's discuss creative ways to approach worship and instruction so that your family can better follow the path of conversion and hope in Christ, which rightly belongs in every human life and in every home, while taking into account you particular challenges and circumstances.

Faithfully and prayerfully yours in Christ,
Your pastor