Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas: "Children, it is the last hour"

... just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared.
Thus we know this is the last hour.
-- 1 Jn 2:18-21

The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.
-- CCC 676

Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
-- CCC 675

The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord"; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. . . . Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow. . . .

Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found
in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.

-- CCC 1014

Art: Luca Signorelli, Sermon and Deeds of the Antichrist, Orvieto.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sixth Day in the Christmas Octave: "Do not love 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.

The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children
-- CCC 1828

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fifth Day in the Christmas Octave: "keep his commandments"

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

"A murderer from the beginning, . . . a liar and the father of lies," Satan is "the deceiver of the whole world." Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be "freed from the corruption of sin and death." Now "we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one."

The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil. "If God is for us, who is against us?"
-- CCC 2852

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Feast of the Holy Family: "I must be in my Father's house"

Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Psalm 128, 1-2. 3. 4-5; Colossians 3:12-21; St. Luke 2: 41-52

In these days following our Lord's birth, we contemplate the mysteries of his hidden life at Nazareth.

During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God, (Cf. Gal 4:4) a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was "obedient" to his parents and that he "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." (Lk 2:51-52.) (CCC 531)

Jesus's obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: "Not my will..."(Lk 22:42) The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed. (Cf. Rom 5:19) (CCC 532)

The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life:

The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus--the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us...A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character...A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the Carpenter's Son," in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work...To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern, their brother who is God. (Paul VI at Nazareth, January 5, 1964: LH, Feast of the Holy Family, OR.) (CCC 533)

The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus. (Cf. Lk 2: 41-52) Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work?" (Lk 2:49 alt.) Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary "kept all these things in her heart" during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life. (CCC 534)

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also paragraphs 472, 503, 517, 531, 583, 2196, 2599 in the CCC.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Art: The Holy Family by Michelangelo.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day: " 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.

"In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him "all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." The Church's faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the "giver of life", "the Creator Spirit" (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the "source of every good".
-- CCC 291

Art: Pietro Orioli, 1458 - 1496, Nativity with Saints. National Gallery, London.

For the MCITL reflection on the Scriptures for the Mass of Christmas Day, please click here.

Hodie Christus Natus Est

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.” -- Isaiah 7:14

The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it.
-- CCC 464

Grateful thanks and very best wishes to all visitors and friends for a most blessed and joy-filled Christ-MASS from MCITL.

Photo: Neapolitan presepe by MCITL.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve: "For the LORD delights in you"

and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.
-- Is 62:1-5

God's love for Israel is compared to a father's love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother's for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son."
-- CCC 219

Photo: Birthplace of Jesus Christ our Lord in the cave of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday, Advent Wk III: "Are you the one who is to come?"

“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.”

is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations. To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.
-- CCC 543

Monday, December 14, 2009

S. John of the Cross: "who gave you this authority?”

“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.”

The authority required by the moral order derives from God: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."
-- CCC 1899

Image: Saint John of the Cross. Source: Wikipedia.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gaudete Sunday: "Rejoice!"

Zephaniah 3, 14-18; Isaiah 12, 2-3. 4. 5-6; Philippians 4, 4-7; St. Luke 3, 10-18

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice."

What kind of rejoicing can come from hearing St. John's description of the coming of the Messiah? "...he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."(Jn 3: 16-17) And yet, St. Luke tells us we are to welcome this news as good: "So with other exhortations, he preached good news to the people." (Jn 3: 18) John's preaching about the judgment, that some souls might be lost, can hardly be considered "good news"; unless it is the truth.

The truth, however difficult though it may be for us to hear, is always good news. St. John lays bare the truth about the sins of the people, the tax collectors and the soldiers, instructing them as to how to correct their lives. This is good news, though painful to hear, for it will bring repentance, conversion and healing. Rejoicing will follow, for those who amend their lives enjoy God's mercy unto everlasting life. It is the truth which is the "Good News".

Today on Gaudete, or "rejoice", Sunday we remember that though our lives are marked by waiting and watching, by penance and prayer, we are yet people of joy. Our joy is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit, given to us in fullest measure, that we may love God. "The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Joy is not possible unless one receives the Spirit's gift of divine charity.

The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony"; (Col 3:14) it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love. (CCC 1827)

We rejoice because we are secure in the knowledge of the love of God who has truly revealed himself as our Father through the gift of his only-begotten Son at Bethlehem.
St. John foretells the coming of the Incarnate God who is Judge and Lord. The people, stricken with fear at St. John's message, ask him, "What are we to do?" He instructs them to live in charity: give a coat to him who has none, share your food, act with justice. These are the fruits of the virtue of charity.

The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion. (CCC 1829) The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.' (Gal 5:22-23) (CCC 1832)

Heaven, the union of all the saints and holy angels with the Triune God, is the only place of unending and complete joy. Hope of heaven, together with faith and charity, are the virtues by which the Holy Spirit enables us to rejoice with authentic joy flowing from and leading toward the Trinity.

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. (Cf. Rom 8: 28-30; Mt 7:21) In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" (Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1541.) and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." (1 Tim 2:4) She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven. (CCC 1821)

The virtue of hope flows from true charity, bringing rejoicing, enabling us to begin to anticipate, here on earth, the love of heaven. The life of charity enables us to look toward the second coming with joy. St. Teresa of Avila teaches Christian joy made possible through hope in God's mercy for eternal and unending joy:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (CCC 1821)

Let's pray for each other until, next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 535, 696, 2447 in the CCC.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Photo Source: The New Liturgical Movement

Our Lady of Guadalupe: "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

The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the "Daughter of Zion": "Rejoice." It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.
-- CCC 722

Photo: The tilma of Saint Juan Diego with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday, Advent Wk II: "this generation ... is like children"

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.”

Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection
. For each one of the works of the "six days" it is said: "And God saw that it was good." "By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws." Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.
-- CCC 339

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, Advent Wk II: "none greater than John the Baptist"

yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he... And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
-- Mt 11:11-15

John the Baptist is "more than a prophet." In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the "voice" of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John "came to bear witness to the light." In John's sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God."
-- CCC 719

Monday, December 7, 2009

S. Ambrose: "rise"

pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”

Sacraments are "powers that comes forth" from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are "the masterworks of God" in the new and everlasting covenant.
-- CCC 1116

Art: Ambrose converting Theodosius, Pierre Subleyras,1699-1749. S. Ambrose is a patron of Meeting Christ in the Liturgy, with his words providing the inspiration for this project: "I see you, O Lord, face to face; I meet you in your sacraments."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday, First Wk Advent: “Do you believe that I can do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they said to him.
Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.”
And their eyes were opened.

Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief) or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman). The urgent request of the blind men, "Have mercy on us, Son of David" or "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: "Your faith has made you well; go in peace."

St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus' prayer: "He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us."
-- CCC 2616